German Scholz calls for faster vaccinations to defeat Covid

(Bloomberg) – Chancellor Olaf Scholz has called on his fellow Germans to get vaccinated against Covid-19 to beat the pandemic and open up possibilities for sweeping economic reforms.

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The 2020s will be a decade of transformation as Europe’s largest economy strives to become climate neutral in around 25 years, said the 63-year-old woman who succeeded Angela Merkel earlier this month.

“We are entering a new era – an era that will be good if we actively shape it,” Scholz said in his first New Years address. “It makes a difference if we take our destiny firmly into our own hands. “

The pandemic overshadowed the start of Scholz’s tenure. Its Social Democrats narrowly beat Merkel’s conservative bloc on a promise to speed up Germany’s economic overhaul as climate change and the rise of digital technologies pose risks to its industrial base.

These ambitious plans have been dismissed as Germany grapples with vaccine shortages, patchy infection data and increasingly aggressive anti-vaccine protests.

Scholz spent most of his speech urging Germans to stick to pandemic restrictions, including once again refraining from big New Years parties and fireworks. He rebuffed vaccine skeptics, saying nearly 4 billion people worldwide have been injected and vaccinated mothers have given birth to healthy babies.

Vaccines are “the way out of the pandemic,” Scholz said. “Now it’s about speed. We have to be faster than the virus.

Germany’s seven-day infection rate rose for the second day in a row on Friday to 214.9 cases per 100,000 people. Despite being less than half of the record at the end of November, Health Minister Karl Lauterbach warned the current outbreak could be two to three times worse than official figures show due to patchy data provided by his system decentralized health care system during the Christmas holidays.

Scholz’s new government, which consists of a three-way alliance between the SPD, the Greens and the pro-business Free Democrats, will meet with regional leaders on January 7 to discuss new measures to tackle the pandemic. Lauterbach is committed to having accurate data by then.

German authorities are bracing for a spike in the omicron variant, which has led to an increase in infections in neighboring countries like France, Denmark and the Netherlands. The highly contagious strain has raised concerns about the ability to protect critical infrastructure if health workers and police are infected or forced into quarantine.

To counter these risks, his administration has imposed stricter rules on private gatherings and aims to vaccinate 80% of the population by the end of January, a goal that seems exaggerated in a context of stubborn opposition to the shootings among a minority of population. Currently, around 71% of Germans are fully vaccinated.

Protests in recent days, especially in the former Communist East, have at times turned violent because of restrictions targeting unvaccinated people and as Parliament considers legislation that would make Covid shooting mandatory.

“Let’s come together to do it all – and I really mean it all – to conquer the crown in the New Year,” said Scholz.

(Updates with the latest virus figures in the eighth paragraph)

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