BERLIN — Olaf Scholz, the Social Democrat poised to become Germany’s next chancellor, said on Wednesday he would ramp up the national coronavirus vaccination campaign and consider making shots compulsory for health staff and other essential workers.
The Social Democrat leader announced the crisis measures to fight record infections during a press conference called to unveil a pact to form a center-left coalition government with the environmentalist Greens and the liberal Free Democrats.
“We still haven’t defeated corona. Day after day we are racing to new records,” Scholz told reporters in his opening remarks.
Only around 68 percent of Germany’s 83 million people are vaccinated, leaving society open to a record-breaking fourth wave of infection by the highly contagious Delta variant — and flooding hospital intensive-care units with critically ill patients.
“We must vaccinate and give booster shots to prevent the spread of the virus,” said Scholz. “Vaccination is the way out of this pandemic.”
Scholz’s call for a limited vaccine mandate contrasts with Germany’s southern neighbor Austria, which last week announced it would make vaccination compulsory for the general population. Several regional leaders in Germany have called, meanwhile, for a national vaccine mandate.
In a new move, Scholz also said he would set up an expert team of advisers in his office to monitor the progress of the pandemic and report to him on a daily basis.
Outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel did not have such a core team, which critics said contributed to a lack of coordination in her government’s handling of the pandemic. Scholz’s proposal resembles the U.K.’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), which has advised the British government throughout the pandemic.