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To avoid overload and infection, doctors in Germany are now allowed to grant sick leave to patients over the phone. This applies to patients suspected of having COVID-19, but also to those suffering from a cold.
A phone call to your doctor can now earn you a week of sick leave in Germany, as the country faces a coronavirus epidemic during a flu season.
On Monday, the national association of physicians working in the public health system and the association of health insurance companies announced that telephone consultations would be enough to keep employees out of workplace. The changes should only stay in place for the next four weeks.
Read more: Massive flu wave grips Germany
The move, according to the doctors' association, aims to reduce workload for medical professionals.
"We are in an extraordinary situation — and it requires extraordinary measures," the group's representatives were quoted as saying by the Welt newspaper.
Official suspicion criteria
Under the new terms, a doctor can grant up to seven days sick leave for patients suffering from a mild respiratory tract infection, such as a common cold, as long as the patient shows no serious symptoms. It is also possible to give sick leave to people who are suspected of having coronavirus under criteria set by the official Robert Koch Institute.
Read more: What you need to know about the coronavirus
The public health institute says that suspicion of the new coronavirus infection is justified for people who show respiratory symptoms or unspecified general symptoms who were in touch with a confirmed COVID-19 patient, or people with acute respiratory symptoms who had spent time in a high-risk area.
German doctors advise patients who believe they might have been infected to call the 116 117 hotline for more information.