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In her final podcast, the outgoing chancellor urged Germany to "take this treacherous virus seriously" and get protected. Some 69% of the population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, compared to 80% in Spain.
Merkel has posted over 600 video podcasts — in her final message, she urged the public to 'get vaccinated'
Outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel made what is likely her final appeal for Germans to get vaccinated against COVID-19 on Saturday.
Merkel, who is set to leave office next week, gave her last video podcast after more than 600 weekly podcasts.
"I once again emphatically ask you to take this treacherous virus seriously," she 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," Merkel added.
Referring to the 102,946 people in Germany who have died from COVID, the outgoing chancellor said: "Every one of them leaves behind families or friends, stunned, speechless and helpless.''
She added that deaths were now avoidable, with vaccines readily available across the country.
"Get vaccinated, no matter whether it's a first vaccination or a booster,'' Merkel said. "Every vaccination helps."
She also paid tribute to "those who are reasonable and understanding in this difficult period" and who "stick to the rules," people who she said made up the vast majority of the public.
"You demonstrate the civic responsibility that's so marvelous about our country, without which no chancellor or government can achieve anything."
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.
Scholz is set to lead a three-way coalition with the environmentalist Greens and the neoliberal FDP.
The measures include excluding unvaccinated people across the country from nonessential stores, restaurants and sports and cultural venues.
The German parliament is also set to debate a proposed law to make vaccination compulsory from February or March.
Nearly 69% of Germans are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus — short of the government's aim of a minimum 75% vaccination rate, and considerably lower than some other European Union countries.
The number of unvaccinated people has been blamed as a key factor in a surge of new virus cases in recent weeks.
On Saturday, Germany recorded 64,510 new daily cases and 378 additional deaths. The country's seven-day infection rate has reached 442.7 new cases per 100,000 residents.
mm/rs (AFP, AP, dpa)