Corona pandemic: sick leave by phone again – debate about the mask rule

In view of the still high corona numbers, sick leave due to cold symptoms is now possible again by telephone and without a visit to the practice.

Corona pandemic: sick leave by phone again – debate about the mask rule

In view of the still high corona numbers, sick leave due to cold symptoms is now possible again by telephone and without a visit to the practice. The joint federal committee of doctors, health insurance companies and clinics decided on Thursday, as a spokeswoman announced.

The regulation will therefore initially apply until the end of November. There are discussions about the new corona protection measures with a lot of leeway for the countries, which should also help in the fight against an autumn wave.

So that fewer people get infected in doctor's offices, a telephone call to the doctor should now be sufficient for a seven-day sick leave for mild diseases of the upper respiratory tract. Sick leave can also be extended by a further seven days by telephone. The regulation was already in place at the beginning of the corona pandemic, but expired on June 1 due to the more relaxed infection situation.

Cold season is upon us

In the meantime, however, the numbers have risen again, explained committee chairman Josef Hecken. At the same time, the cold and flu season will begin in the coming months. "We want to avoid full waiting rooms in doctor's offices and the emergence of new chains of infection," he said. The telephone sick note is a simple, tried and tested solution for this nationwide.

A ministry spokesman said Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) was very happy that his proposal had been implemented so promptly. The head of the central association of statutory health insurance companies, Doris Pfeiffer, also welcomed the move. In addition to the high incidences, there is a presumably high number of unreported infections and concerns about another wave. "This is where sick leave over the phone can help to avoid infection if patients with a cold no longer have to go to the practice." In the long term, however, a telephone call cannot replace personal contact with a doctor.

Clear criteria requested

In the debate about new protective measures such as mask requirements from October, employers and associations called for a uniform approach by the federal states. Clear criteria are needed for this, said the general manager of the Confederation of German Employers' Associations (BDA), Steffen Kampeter. "Any excessive burden on employers, employees and customers must be excluded." The German Teachers' Association and the Association for Education and Training also warned of a chaos of measures if the federal states do not coordinate with each other.

Lauterbach and Justice Minister Marco Buschmann (FDP) presented a new concept for the period from October to Easter on Wednesday. The focus is on wearing FFP2 or medical masks. An FFP2 mask requirement in long-distance trains and airplanes should continue to apply nationwide, as well as a new mask and test requirement in hospitals and care facilities. The countries should decide for themselves whether they also require masks in publicly accessible indoor areas such as supermarkets. In schools, a mask requirement is only allowed if face-to-face teaching is endangered - and then only from the fifth grade.

Dispute about possible mask requirement in schools

FDP parliamentary group leader Christian Dürr called on the federal states to be sensitive to the obligation to wear a mask. "I expect the Prime Ministers to carefully consider when this instrument is necessary," he told the German Press Agency. Dürr addressed Lower Saxony, Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg in particular.

It must also be possible to generally do without masks in schools by taking appropriate precautions, said the FDP parliamentary group leader. Teachers' association boss Heinz-Peter Meidinger, on the other hand, thinks that's wrong. It is completely incomprehensible to us why primary schools "even in the event of imminent staff shortages and school closures are not allowed to be ordered to wear masks," he said. The chair of the Conference of Ministers of Education, Schleswig-Holstein's Minister of Education Karin Prien, called for a national school summit to coordinate the procedure.

From the point of view of several countries, there are also questions about the further test strategy. It must be clarified how test structures should be maintained and financed in the future, said Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania's Health Minister Stefanie Drese (SPD). Lower Saxony Minister Daniela Behrens (SPD) made the federal government responsible. If he plans tests in hospitals and care facilities, for example, he must also ensure them.

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