‘Not seen since the Second World War’: Cologne set to impose 9pm Covid curfew

Cologne has become the latest German city to put in place curfew restrictions in response to rising coronavirus infections.

'Not seen since the Second World War': Cologne set to impose 9pm Covid curfew
People walking in Cologne this week. Photo: DPA

As The Local has been reporting, Chancellor Angela Merkel and the federal government are in the process of amending the Infection Protection Act in order to bring in tougher, nationwide Covid measures, including curfews in hotspots.

However, the law change is still making its way through parliament – and some federal states, including Hamburg, have already started taking action.

And Cologne mayor Henriette Reker said on Friday that a night-time curfew would be coming to Cologne amid rising rates.

It will be in place from Saturday during the hours of 9pm and 5am.

“I don’t think there has been a curfew in Cologne since the Second World War,” said Reker on Friday. “The coming weeks will be tough.”

READ ALSO: ‘No way around it’: Merkel defends Germany-wide Covid measures

Reker said it was unclear how long the measure, which comes into force on Saturday at midnight, would be in place.

The city, in western Germany, is responding to a surge in Covid-19 cases. The number of infections per 100,000 residents within seven days stands at 162.7 – well above the threshold of 100 that German states are aiming to stay below.

After the curfew comes into effect, people will be ordered to stay at home between 9pm and 5am. Residents are only allowed to leave their homes for a valid reason. This can include medical appointments, emergencies, work or accompanying sick people.

In future, consuming alcohol and having barbecues will also be prohibited in public green spaces.

Anyone who is caught violating the curfew could be hit with a fine of €250.

READ ALSO: When could Germany’s nationwide ’emergency brake’ measures go into effect?

Reker said the nightly curfew aims to reduce contacts even more, especially meetings at home, mutual visits and parties, which people are unfortunately having.

“The intensive care units are at their limit,” Reker said. “Already at this point, not all our hospitals can comprehensively deal for medical emergencies.”

Reker said she believes the measure are proportionate, but is prepared for complaints.

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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.