Unvaccinated people should reflect on their duty to society, Merkel says

BERLIN, November 11 (Reuters) – People still unvaccinated as the fourth wave of the coronavirus pandemic hits Germany must understand that they have a duty to the rest of society to protect others, said Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday.

Speaking at the invitation of New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at a business summit in Asia and the Pacific, Merkel said it was the task of politicians to argue for serious intervention by being honest with the public.

The number of coronavirus cases has risen across Europe in recent weeks, with experts worrying that health systems are once again at risk of being overwhelmed, in part because unvaccinated people are still spreading the disease to the elderly and more vulnerable.

“We have to make it clear that I have the right to be vaccinated and that is a great fortune, a huge achievement of science and technology,” Merkel said over a video link. “But I also have a certain obligation to help protect society.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel wears her protective mask after a press conference following a meeting with the leaders of the country’s 16 federal states to discuss COVID-19 polls in Berlin, Germany, June 10, 2021. Michael Kappeler / Pool via REUTERS

While many of the unvaccinated are in age groups that will statistically experience less severe cases of COVID-19, they can transmit the virus to older people with a weaker immune system, which can then end up in intensive care, even with a vaccination.

Merkel, who was interviewed by Microsoft President Brad Smith, added that the challenges of the pandemic and climate change were similar, as they were both exponential processes whose severity was difficult to recognize at the beginning of a growth curve.

“When you see the start of an exponential increase, you need to act immediately, and an understanding of what exponential means is not widespread in our society,” Merkel said.

“That’s also why we have been so indifferent to climate change – it also has exponential growth and we have to act at a time when it is not at all visible how the numbers will grow.”

Reporting by Thomas Escritt; Editing by Andrew Heavens

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