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Covid-19 variant from India detected ‘only sporadically’ in Germany, says RKI

Health experts say the Covid-19 variant that originated in India does not appear to have spread widely in Germany so far.

Covid-19 variant from India detected 'only sporadically' in Germany, says RKI
A negative coronavirus rapid test in Dresden, Saxony. Photo: DPA

Acording to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), evidence of the Indian coronavirus variant B.1.617 in Germany remains relatively low.

So far, it has been discovered “only sporadically”, 22 times in a week in examined samples, according to an RKI report published on Wednesday evening. In the previous week, the institute said they had found it 21 times.

“We have isolated cases in Germany, we will release a new report tomorrow,” Lothar Wieler, head of the Robert Koch Institute infectious disease agency, told reporters when asked about the B.1.617 variant.

The World Health Organization said Tuesday that the variant had been detected in “at least 17 countries”.

German media said Cologne reported two cases with the variant. According to broadcaster WDR both of those affected had recently returned from India.

The variant was also discovered in two returning travellers in Baden-Württemberg.

India is experiencing a dramatic surge in Covid cases, with hundreds of thousands of infections being reported daily among its population of 1.38 billion people. Several countries, including Germany, are providing medical supplies and support.

Germany banned travel from India earlier this week, allowing only citizens and residents to enter.

READ ALSO: Germany restricts travel from ‘high risk’ India

‘No weakening’ of British variant

The RKI report states that the dominance of the particularly contagious variant B.1.1.7, which originated in the UK and has been fuelling the third wave Germany, remains the dominant strain in the Bundesrepublik.

The RKI said there is “no weakening” of the prevalence of this variant in Germany.

In the two other variants from South Africa (B.1.351) and Brazil (P.1), which are also classified as worrying, the proportions remain consistently low in Germany, at one percent and less, data shows.

In Germany, however, only a fraction of the samples are examined for variants using so-called whole genome sequencing.

The Indian variant is under observation by the WHO.

Experts say it is too early to say whether the Indian variant, B.1.617, is responsible for the rapid increase in infections there.

The RKI says there is currently still a lack of knowledge on how dangerous the variant is.

Experts are particularly concerned with the question of whether variants cause increased transmission from one person to another, and if vaccines are effective against them. 

What are the latest numbers in Germany?

On Thursday the RKI logged 24,736 cases within the last 24 hours and 264 deaths. On Thursday a week ago, Germany recorded 29,518 new infections and 259 new deaths within a day.

The number of cases per 100,000 people in seven days fell to 154.9 on Thursday, which could be the sign of a downward trend. The day before, the RKI said the 7-day incidence was 160.6; a week ago it was 161.1.

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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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