Blood reserves in Germany run critically short due to corona crisis

Levels of blood reserves in German hospitals are falling to critically low levels due to the coronavirus crisis, impeding efforts of the Red Cross to find donors.

Blood reserves in Germany run critically short due to corona crisis
A woman donates blood in Berlin. Photo: DPA

In the states of Baden-Württemberg and Hessen, the local Red Cross no longer has enough reserves to cover a whole day of hospital operations, according to a report Wednesday from public broadcaster ARD.

Levels are also dangerously low in Berlin, Hamburg, Saxony and Brandenburg. One of the few federal states not hit by the scarcity is Bavaria, which still has blood reserves for over four days.

READ ALSO: 'Masks are in short supply': How coronavirus has hit Germany's frontline workers

“This is the lowest levels of reserves I’ve seen in my career,” Eberhard Weck of the Red Cross in Baden-Württemberg told ARD.

The low levels of blood reserves could be critical if hospitals were hit by a large scale emergency involving significant numbers of patients.

“We would have a big problem then,” the Red Cross’ Stephan Küpper told ARD, adding that local reserves were so low that blood would have to be called in from other parts of the country.

The reason for the shortage is the corona crisis. Although people are as willing as ever to donate blood, opportunities to do so have been limited by the lockdown.

Mobile blood banks, which normally visit universities, schools and companies, have been out of action for weeks due to the fact that universities are closed and most companies have told their employees to work from home. Opportunities to donate at hospitals have also been restricted by the crisis.

The Red Cross is encouraging everyone who can to visit a blood donation centre on the few days when appointments are still possible. The organisation predicts that the shortages could last until the end of the year.

READ ALSO: How people in Germany have been showing their solidarity during the corona crisis

“Everyone who is willing and able needs to donate blood,” Weck told ARD.

Information on booking blood donation appointments across the country is available on the Red Cross’ website via the following link.


Member comments

  1. Does anybody have info on whether the Red Cross accepts donations from people cannot speak German? I have tried Charite and Haema, but both have turned me down because I cannot answer their questions in German. Thanks!

  2. A source for a list of the requirements in English for eligibility / ineligibility for being a blood donor would be very useful. Thank you.

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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.