WELLINGTON, New Zealand – German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Friday that people have a duty to be vaccinated against coronavirus to protect others.
She spoke as Germany struggled with a new rise in infections that reached a record daily high of 50,000 on Thursday.
Merkel spoke for 30 minutes with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in a leisure virtual discussion on the side of the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.
New Zealand hosts APEC and although Germany is not a member, Ardern said she has long admired Merkel, who will soon leave the office.
“This virus is very, very hard,” Merkel said.
She said it was a huge scientific achievement to produce vaccines within a year after the explosion, but that officials had not yet reached a group of unvaccinated people.
“You have the right to be vaccinated,” Merkel said. “But, to a certain extent, you too, as a member of society, have a duty to be vaccinated to protect yourself and others.”
About two-thirds of Germany’s 83 million people are fully vaccinated but the nation has resisted making vaccinations mandatory for certain workers. Lawmakers are considering new measures ahead of the latest growth.
During their discussion, both Merkel and Ardern expressed their frustration at the rise of misinformation on social media.
“In the old days, we had some events that happened in our society. Television was reporting on it and the next day everyone was talking about it, ”Merkel said. “Today everyone participates in their own social media. You’re just engaged in a bubble you come across on the internet.”
If there was any advice she could give to future leaders, Merkel said, it would be to try to understand the perspectives of others and what motivates them to act on them.
Ardern said one of the lessons she learned from the pandemic was to engage people and companies to try to find solutions by presenting them with the data and showing them the problem. She said everyone learned about the virus as it spread.
“Literally, you build the plane while you’re trying to fly,” Ardern said.
The APEC forum ends Saturday with a virtual meeting of Pacific Rim leaders, including US President Joe Biden and Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping.
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