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Travel: Germany announces tougher checks at all land borders

Germany will step up random controls along its land borders to check that travellers arriving in the country are carrying a negative Covid-19 test, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said Tuesday.

Travel: Germany announces tougher checks at all land borders
A car is inspected at the Czech-German border on February 20th. Photo: DPA

Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said he has asked Germany’s federal police  to “intensify” the checks for the next “eight to 14 days”.

“Regardless where you’re arriving from, from Poland, France, or Denmark, everyone should expect to be checked, especially with regard to producing a negative test,” Seehofer told reporters.

The checks would occur in a 30-kilometre zone on German territory after vehicles have already crossed from neighbouring nations, Seehofer said, meaning nobody will be sent back if they don’t comply.

But police can impose fines on anyone who fails to show a negative test or did not complete an online registration form before entry.

Anyone coming from a “high-risk” area such as France must also quarantine upon arrival.

READ ALSO: Germany requires negative Covid test for travellers from France

The only systematic border checks, where each car is stopped and can be denied entry, are taking place at Germany’s frontier with the hard-hit Czech Republic.

Seehofer announced that the strict checks would be extended for another 14 days given the Czech Republic’s high infection rate and the prevalence of virus variants.

But Germany will no longer systematically stop each vehicle coming from Austria’s Tyrol region, he added, saying the pandemic situation in Tyrol “has significantly improved”.

Also from Tuesday, anyone arriving in Germany by plane must show a negative test before boarding, regardless of whether they are coming from a risk area or not.

The tougher measures come as Germany struggles to slow a rise in coronavirus infections, fuelled by new, more contagious virus strains with experts warning that the vaccination pace remains too slow to break a third wave of the pandemic.

Government officials have repeatedly urged Germans to stay home over the  Easter break and expressed concerns over Germans holidaying in the Spanish island of Mallorca.

READ ALSO: ‘Not an invitation to go there’: Germany urges against Mallorca holiday following lifting of travel warning

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HEALTH

EXPLAINED: The new rules around getting a sick note over the phone in Germany

Due to high Covid infection numbers throughout the summer, it’s now possible to get a sick note from a doctor over the phone again for some illnesses. Here’s what you need to know.

EXPLAINED: The new rules around getting a sick note over the phone in Germany

What’s happened?

In spring 2020, German authorities changed the law so that people with a mild upper respiratory tract illness, such as the common cold, were able to get an incapacity to work certificate or AU-Bescheinigung by simply calling and speaking to their GP.

The rule was extended several times and finally reversed on June 1st this year due to falling infection figures. Since then people have had to go back to the practice – or do a video call if the doctor’s office has that system in place – to get a sick note.

Now, due to a decision by the Joint Federal Committee, the regulation has been reintroduced and patients can call their GP again for a sick note.

Can I get a sick note over the phone for any illness?

No. As before, the regulation only applies to patients suffering from a mild upper respiratory tract illness. Though Covid has not explicitly been named in the announcement, it seems that it is intended to be covered by the regulation.

If the doctor is convinced that the patient is unfit for work after a telephone consultation, then they can issue a sick note for up to seven days.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: The changes around doctor’s notes in Germany you should know

If the symptoms persist after seven days, the certificate can be extended once more for another week.

Why now?

According to the Chairman of the G-BA, Josef Hecken, the regulation has been introduced now as a response to rising Covid numbers and in anticipation of the cold and flu season in the coming months: “We want to avoid full waiting rooms in doctors’ offices and the emergence of new infection chains,” he said.

The telephone sick leave rule is a simple, proven and uniform nationwide solution for that, he said. The rule is also necessary because video consultation hours are not yet available everywhere.

What else should I know?

The health insurer DAK is calling for telephone sick leave in the case of light respiratory diseases to be made possible on a permanent basis in Germany. DAK’s CEO Andreas Storm said that this should “not always be up for debate, because it has proven itself.” 

READ ALSO: Everything you need to know about making a doctor’s appointment in Germany

The social association VdK also welcomed the reintroduction of the rule. The VdK’s President Verena Bentele said that the regulation would help to protect high-risk groups in particular from potential infections.

What are the rules to know about sick notes in Germany?

Germany has a strict system in place. If you are sick, you need to give your employer a Krankmeldung (notification of sickness) before the start of work on the first day (of your illness).

However, you also need to hand in a Krankschreibung (doctor’s note) on the fourth day of your illness. Some employments contracts, however, require you to submit a sick not earlier than the fourth day so check with your boss or HR on that point. 

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