German Chancellor Angela Merkel attributed part of her country’s difficulties during the coronavirus pandemic – from the slow vaccination campaign to disputes over quarantines – to a tendency toward perfectionism and called for more flexibility to combat the new spike in cases.
In an hour-long television interview with public broadcaster ARD aired Sunday night, Merkel admitted that her government has made mistakes, for example in planning an Easter quarantine, which had to be canceled.
The veteran leader also expressed frustration at the actions of some German state governors, including some from her own party, who have resisted imposing restrictions they had previously agreed to.
But Merkel, who is not running again in September’s national elections, said she stands by her promise to offer a vaccine to all adults in the country by the end of the summer, and insisted that Germany is still doing well compared with almost all of its neighbors.
Maybe sometimes we are too perfectionist and want to do everything right, because obviously whoever makes a mistake always faces a lot of public criticism, she said.
But there also has to be flexibility, she added. I think that is an attribute that we as Germans perhaps need to learn a bit more about, along with our tendency towards perfectionism.
She gave the example of the need for doctors and vaccination centers to have lists on hand of people who can receive leftover vaccines at the end of the day. By Sunday, about 10.8% of the German population had received a first dose, a much lower percentage than in Britain, the United States or Israel.
Merkel said she expected the supply of vaccines to grow significantly, and said vaccinations would begin next month at GPs’ surgeries to boost the campaign.
Recent opinion polls show a decline in support for the government. Merkel urged Germans not to despair.
We are in a difficult situation, she said. But look at our neighbors. With the exception of Denmark, they all have the same problems, partly from a much more difficult position.
We also need to show some strength and courage, she said.
Merkel criticized some state governors who this month refused to activate emergency measures they had agreed to when infection rates exceeded 100 cases per 100,000 population.
We must now implement the necessary measures with great seriousness, she said. Some states are doing so, others are not yet.
Merkel singled out three states in particular: the tiny Saarland, on the border with France; the capital, Berlin; and Westphalia-North Rhine-Westphalia, led by her possible successor, Armin Laschet, for failing to comply with the spirit and letter of the rules the chancellor had agreed with governors.
Possible additional measures include curfews, Merkel said, indicating that she would ask for parliament’s support if the states were unwilling to enforce the approved rules.
Markus Soeder, governor of Bavaria and another contender to succeed Merkel in the Sept. 26 election, expressed support for tightening federal rules.
If the chancellor takes the initiative at the national level to change the law and make clear recommendations, she would have my support, he told ARD television.
Germany’s disease control agency on Monday reported 9,872 new confirmed cases in the past day, as well as 43 deaths. Nearly 2.8 million COVID-19 infections and 75,913 deaths have been confirmed since the start of the outbreak in a country of 83 million people.