Germany calls up army reserves to help fight coronavirus pandemic

Germany is calling up tens of thousands of reservists to help in the country's battle against the coronavirus pandemic, Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said Thursday.

Germany calls up army reserves to help fight coronavirus pandemic
Photo: DPA

The army began mobilising its first batches of reserve troops over the weekend, said the minister, adding that it will next standby “other reservist troops in through very targeted calls, and through a general call”.

They would be used to help treat patients, resolve transport bottlenecks and provide support to police and local authorities as the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus soar.

Europe's biggest economy has a pool of 75,000 reservists for whom the army has updated contact details, the minister said.

Some 2,300 reservists responded to the weekend mobilisation call, including more than 900 who can be deployed to health services, said Kramp-Karrenbauer.


Describing the fight against COVID-19 a marathon, the minister said soldiers can step in when the capacity of civil forces is exhausted.

“We can and will deliver what is needed from us,” she said.

The German government is accelerating efforts to ramp up capacity to treat patients.

The total number of reported infections in Germany grew to 12,327 cases as of Thursday at 8am, according to data from Johns Hopkins University and Robert Koch Institute

But depending on an individual state's policies, many other possible cases may not have been tested because they show only mild symptoms or have not been in contact with a known case. 

Over 4,200 of the cases in Germany are in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany's most populous state.

Out of all the confirmed cases since January, there have been a total of 105 recoveries. There have also been 28 deaths in Germany due to the coronavirus.

Speaking at a separate press conference, Health Minister Jens Spahn said regulations will be eased for employees in medical services to help in hospitals, to take the pressure off qualified nurses and doctors.

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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.