Olaf Scholz used his first New Year speech as prime minister to promote an ambitious plan to provide 30 million doses of Covid-19 booster injections by the end of January, as Germany is making Prepare for the surge in cases of the infectious Omicron coronavirus variant.
In a speech to the media before airing on Friday night, Schultz urged Germans to receive booster injections “as soon as possible.”
“The most important thing now is speed,” he said. “We must act faster than the virus.”
He said that since mid-November, Germany has made more than 30 million jabs, “probably more than any other EU country”, and plans to provide the same number again by the end of January.
He also called on millions of unvaccinated Germans to be vaccinated. Only 71% of Germans are fully vaccinated, which is much lower than some other European countries such as Spain and Portugal. The authorities are trying to persuade diehards who oppose the vaccine.
Schultz admitted that some people are worried that they might be “negatively affected” by vaccination, but emphasized that nearly 4 billion people worldwide have been vaccinated — “without major side effects.” “Countless people who have been vaccinated have become parents of healthy babies,” he added.
Schultz’s speech marked a turning point in Germany. For the past 16 years, Angela Merkel has been speaking to Germans in the New Year. But she retired after the national election in September, ushering in a new era in German politics.
The social democrat group of scholars barely won. He formed an unprecedented tripartite alliance with Vegetables and Liberals to delegate Merkel’s central power CDU/CSU to the opposition bench, only for the third time in its history. .
Schultz mentioned this change in his usual low-key way. “Today, we bid farewell to a year that brought a series of changes,” he said. “One small change is that I, as your Federal Chancellor, will speak to you on New Year’s Eve today.”
When Schultz came to power, he proposed a bold plan to green the German economy and improve social justice, but the pandemic has cast a shadow over his first few weeks in office. At the same time, frequent violent demonstrations by anti-vaccine and anti-coronavirus restrictions continue to shock German cities.
Although the number of people infected with Omicron has not seen the same large-scale surge in countries such as the United Kingdom and France, the number in Germany is rising. Official data showed that there were 41,240 new coronavirus infections on Friday, compared with 35,431 a week ago.
But experts say that the sharp drop in detections during the Christmas period means that the actual numbers may be worse.
Germany has introduced strict new contact restrictions to curb the spread of Omicron and limit the number of people attending social gatherings. “Tonight we will again have no big New Year’s Eve party or grand fireworks show,” Scholz said.
He reiterated Germany’s plan to achieve climate neutrality within 25 years, which will involve “the biggest transformation in our economy in more than a century.”
He said that the country will no longer rely on coal, oil and natural gas, and that “wind, solar and other renewable energy can generate at least twice as much electricity as we are today.”
Schultz also urged Germans to stop participating in large-scale New Year’s Eve parties and traditional fireworks displays to stop the spread of Covid.
He said that those who have not been vaccinated are “especially at risk of being infected and suffering from long-term and serious diseases.”