Merkel urges Germans to stay the course as anger grows

German Chancellor Angela Merkel poses for photographs after the television recording of her annual New Year’s speech at the chancellery in Berlin, Germany December 30, 2020. Picture taken December 30, 2020. Markus Schreiber/Pool via REUTERS. – POOL/REUTERS

In what is likely to be her final New Year message as chancellor, Angela Merkel on Thursday will urge Germans to respect the coronavirus lockdown.

“For a long time ahead it will be up to all of us how we get through this pandemic,” she is expected to say in her annual televised address to the nation. “Besides the vaccine, we have the most effective means in our own hands: to  stick to the rules, each and every one of us.”

Her speech was released as Mrs Merkel’s government was facing growing anger over the slow and chaotic roll-out of Germany’s vaccination programme.

“I think I am not exaggerating when I say: over the last 15 years we have not found a year so difficult, nor looked forward to the new year with so much hope,” Mrs Merkel said in text released ahead of her annual address.

Mrs Merkel is standing down as chancellor after 15 years in power at next September’s elections.

Describing defeating the pandemic as the “political, social and economic challenge of the century”, she thanked Germans for playing their part in “this historic task”.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by FILIP SINGER/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock (11674364m) Police officers stand guard next to the ongoing preparations for New Year’s Eve celebrations near the landmark Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Germany, 30 December 2020. This year’s event will take place as a television broadcast without an audience due to the coronavirus pandemic. Security measures during preparations for New Year’s Eve in Berlin, Germany – 30 Dec 2020 – FILIP SINGER/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

She lashed out at coronavirus sceptics, accusing them of spreading “conspiracy theories” that are “not only untrue and dangerous, but cynical and cruel”.

Despite her lofty words, Mrs Merkel’s government has come under fire in recent days over its vaccination programme.

Jens Spahn, the health minister, was forced to admit the roll-out of the vaccine has been “a little bit rocky at times” this week.

Just days ago, Mr Spahn pledged to deliver 670,000 doses of the vaccine a week to regional health authorities in January, but his ministry later admitted deliveries would not resume until January 11 after the New Year break.

Meanwhile Germans have complained even those in the most vulnerable groups are unable to book appointments to receive the vaccine.

Karin Maag, an MP from Mrs Merkel’s own party, said she spent hours on the phone trying to book an appointment for her 84-year-old mother, only to be told to use an app or online service. But when she tried them there were no appointments available.

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