German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Saturday urged Germans to get vaccinated against COVID-19, speaking days ahead of leaving office in the final episode of more than 600 weekly video podcasts.
“I once again emphatically ask you to take this tricky virus seriously,” Merkel said, calling the fourth coronavirus wave to hit Germany “very serious” and even “dramatic,” with intensive care units overloaded in some parts of the country.
“The new Omicron variant in particular seems to be even more infectious than those that came before. Get yourself vaccinated, whether it’s your first shot or a booster,” she added.
“Every vaccine helps.”
After 16 years in power, Merkel is expected to pass the reins to Social Democrat Olaf Scholz following a vote in parliament on Wednesday to elect the new chancellor.
In her podcast, she thanked “those who are reasonable and understanding in this difficult period” and “stick to the rules to protect themselves and take care of others.”
“You are the vast majority in our country. You demonstrate the civic responsibility that’s so marvellous about our country, without which no chancellor or government can achieve anything.”
One of Scholz’s first steps as head of government is expected to be passing a law to make vaccination compulsory from February or March next year.
Most of the political spectrum has rallied behind the previously controversial move.
Looking back at her first video podcast in 2006, Merkel recalled that “back then it was very unusual for a head of government to address the public online so directly.”
“My hope at the time, that the World Cup should be a great party even beyond the stadiums, was more than fulfilled,” she added, using the “summer fairy tale” moniker Germans still apply to the football tournament they hosted that year.
While Merkel touched on a vast range of subjects in podcasts over her time in office, from digitalization to anti-Semitism, in the past two years she has frequently spoken about the pandemic.