SHARE
COPY LINK

COVID-19

Germany confirms two cases of new Covid strain: regional ministry

Germany on Saturday confirmed its first two cases of the new Omicron strain of Covid-19, in travellers who arrived at Munich airport from South Africa, regional officials said.

A boy of a school class takes his sample for the so-called 'lollipop test'
The first case of Omicron is thought to have been found in Germany as cases are spiralling in the country. Ina FASSBENDER / AFP

“Two suspected cases of the new virus variant Omicron classified by the World Health Organization as a variant of concern have been confirmed in Bavaria,” the health ministry of the southern state said in a statement.

The people, who arrived back in Germany on Wednesday, have been isolating at home since receiving positive PCR test results for coronavirus, the ministry added.

A ministry spokeswoman said that, after reading news reports about the new strain, the people “proactively sought an examination for the variant”.

She said that in addition, two foreign passengers who arrived in Bavaria on a flight from Cape Town on Friday had tested positive for coronavirus and authorities were now investigating whether they were also infected with the new strain.

The report from Bavaria came after health officials in the western German state of Hesse identified the country’s first suspected case of the new Covid-19 variant, in a person who also returned from South Africa.

Kai Klose, social affairs minister in the western state of Hesse, tweeted that tests late Friday on the traveller who had arrived in Germany, the EU’s most populous country, at Frankfurt international airport, the country’s busiest, revealed “several mutations typical of Omicron”.

“As there is this strong suspicion, the person has been isolated at home. The full sequencing is still to be completed.”

Final results of gene sequencing were expected “in the coming days”.

The person, who was fully vaccinated against coronavirus, developed symptoms “in the course of the week” and was then tested.

Andrej Babis, the prime minister of the neighbouring Czech Republic, said on Saturday a local lab was checking a sample from a woman who had been in Namibia and tested positive upon arrival.

“She flew back to the Czech Republic via South Africa and Dubai,” Babis said in a tweet.

“The woman is vaccinated, she has mild symptoms and we will have the result of the sequencing test tomorrow,” he added.

German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz, who is expected to be sworn in as successor to Chancellor Angela Merkel early next month, stressed Saturday that his coalition would do “everything necessary” to fight the virus and its variants.

“We are establishing a crisis team and are developing a new, precise approach to the current challenges with corona and Omicron,” he tweeted.

“We will do everything necessary. There is nothing which can’t be considered,” he said, as calls grow louder for mandatory coronavirus vaccinations.

The suspect case in Germany follows Belgium saying on Friday it had detected the first announced case in Europe of the new Covid-19 variant, in an unvaccinated person returning from abroad.

A leading Belgian virologist, Marc Van Ranst, tweeted that the person had returned from Egypt on November 11th.

Meanwhile, Britain on Saturday confirmed its first two cases of the new Omicron strain, which the World Health Organisation has declared to be a variant of concern.

EU health authorities have said the new strain poses a “high to very high risk” to the continent.

EU officials agreed on Friday to urge all 27 nations in the bloc to restrict travel from several southern African nations, a policy Germany has already announced.

READ ALSO:

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members

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. 

SHOW COMMENTS