Outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel has called for solidarity in the fight against the spread of the coronavirus and renewed her appeal for more vaccinations.
"We are in the middle of this fourth wave of the pandemic in a very serious situation, in some parts of our country it can only be called dramatic," Merkel said in her last-ever weekly video message published on Saturday.
"Take this treacherous virus seriously," she urged.
Merkel referred to "overcrowded intensive care units," seriously ill patients who had to be flown across Germany, and the "terribly high number" of people for whom the virus has cost their lives.
"Every one of them leaves behind families or friends, stunned, helpless," she said. "This is especially bitter because it could be avoided - with effective and safe vaccines, we hold the key."
Merkel thanked the people "who are sensible and understanding in this difficult time" and stuck to the rules out of self-protection as well as out of care for others.
"They make up the vast majority in our country. They show every day the civic spirit that is so wonderful about our country - and without which no chancellor or government can achieve anything," she said.
The coming difficult weeks can only be overcome with a joint effort, Merkel said. "I sincerely wish that we will succeed together."
Merkel is leaving office next week and will be succeeded as chancellor by Olaf Scholz of the Social Democrats (SPD). Scholz will lead a three-way coalition with the Greens and the pro-business FDP.
According to data from the Federal Ministry of Health on Saturday, at least 57.3 million people, or 68.9 per cent of the German population, now have full basic protection with the usually necessary second shot of vaccine against the coronavirus. At least one first vaccination has been given to 59.8 million people, or 71.9 per cent of all inhabitants.
At least 13 million vaccinated people have now received an additional booster dose. A total of 896,000 vaccinations were given on Friday, according to data released by the ministry.
Outgoing Health Minister Jens Spahn explained that a total of almost 3 million vaccinations have been made in the past three days.
In the meantime, more than a third of the vaccinated over-60s had also received booster protection.
The federal and state governments have set a target of up to 30 million first, second and booster vaccinations by the end of the year - based on the status of vaccinations at the previous federal-state round of talks on November 18.