German leader Merkel says people have duty to get vaccinated

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrives for a debate about the measures to battle the coronavirus and COVID-19 at the parliament Bundestag in Berlin, Germany, Thursday, Nov. 11, 2021. Germany's national disease control center reported a record-high number of more than 50,000 daily coronavirus cases on Thursday as the country's parliament was set to discuss legislation that would provide a new legal framework for coronavirus measures.(Photo/Markus Schreiber)

WELLINGTON – German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Friday that people have a duty to get vaccinated against the coronavirus to protect others.

She spoke as Germany grapples with a new surge of infections, which reached a record daily high of 50,000 on Thursday.

Merkel talked for 30 minutes with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in a free-ranging virtual discussion on the sidelines of the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.

New Zealand is hosting APEC and although Germany is not a member, Ardern said she's long admired Merkel, who will soon leave office.

“This virus is very, very tough,” Merkel said.

She said it was an enormous scientific achievement to produce vaccines within a year of the outbreak, but that officials still weren't reaching a group of unvaccinated people.

“You have the right to get vaccinated,” Merkel said. “But, to a certain extent, you also, as a member of society, have the duty to be vaccinated to protect yourself and to protect 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 in the face of the latest surge.

During their discussion, both Merkel and Ardern expressed their frustration in the rise of disinformation on social media.

“In the old days, we had certain events that happened in our society. Television reported about it and the next day everyone talked about it,” Merkel said. “Today, everyone participates in his or her own social media. You only engage in a bubble that you meet 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 prompts them to act in they way they do.

Ardern said one of the lessons she'd learned from the pandemic was to get people and companies engaged with trying to find solutions by presenting them with the data and showing them the problem. She said everybody had been learning about the virus as it spread.

“Literally, you're building the plane whilst trying to fly,” Ardern said.

The APEC forum concludes Saturday with a virtual meeting of Pacific Rim leaders, including U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping.