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German president calls for unity amid COVID-19 'crisis of trust'

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FILE: German President Frank Walter Steinmeier attends a ceremony to honour people for their services during the coronavirus pandemic, Friday, March 26, 2021.
FILE: German President Frank Walter Steinmeier attends a ceremony to honour people for their services during the coronavirus pandemic, Friday, March 26, 2021.   -   Copyright  Markus Schreiber/Pool via AP
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Germany's president urged his fellow citizens to "pull together" on Saturday, noting the country was enduring a “crisis of trust” amid pandemic restrictions and dissatisfaction over the government’s response.

In a rare address broadcast Saturday, Frank-Walter Steinmeier admitted that "there were mistakes" regarding testing, digital solutions and vaccinations.

“Trust — in a democracy, it rests on a very fragile understanding between citizens and the state: ‘You, state, do your part, I, citizen, do mine,’” he said.

“I know that you, the citizens, are doing your part in this historic crisis. You have done much and you have gone without much.”

“Your expectation for those in government is, ‘Get it together.’"

Steinmeier said the country had swung from self-satisfaction over lower infection numbers in the early stage of the pandemic to excessive pessimism today.

He urged Germans to put aside “constant indignation over others or over people in high places.”

He said that vaccine deliveries would increase sharply in the coming weeks, Europe was building up its production capacities, and general practitioners would join the vaccination effort in addition to large vaccine centres.

“The truth is, we're not world champion, but we're not a failure either,” he said.

Germany, along with the European Union as a whole, has lagged behind the US and the UK in the speed of its vaccination effort.

Poll numbers for Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative party have slipped as the country faces a national election on September 26. Merkel isn't running again.