BERLIN — What a difference a year makes.
In late March 2020, Chancellor Angela Merkel was winning praise the world over for her ability to explain the science behind the coronavirus pandemic and galvanize Germany’s state leaders to line up behind a nationwide strategy founded in testing and contact-tracing that held the number of deaths at bay.
Today, Ms. Merkel finds herself apologizing to the public for a confusing, ever-changing set of regulations and pitted against state leaders eager to give a lockdown-weary public a break, even as a dangerous third wave of the virus sweeps the country. Making matters worse, the national vaccination campaign remains bogged down in bureaucracy and hampered by a lack of supply.
With only months left until Ms. Merkel’s fourth and final term ends — Germans vote on a new government on Sept. 26 — the woman who became known as the crisis chancellor for her ability to remain coolheaded and solution-oriented under pressure appears to have met her greatest challenge yet: governing as a lame duck.
The highly analytical style of politics that has served her well in the past — reading the polls and plotting a strategy centered on what will win support in the next round of voting — has been stymied as a result. That weakness has not only left a vacuum in the chancellery, but also set the country adrift at a time when it needs strong leadership and clear communication, analysts say.
“We are seeing a massive loss of trust in the government from people, and Merkel didn’t want to accept that,” said Uwe Jun, a professor of political science at the University of Trier. “With her apology she wanted to send the signal that she is still in charge, that she can be trusted and that she wants to keep working to get the country through this pandemic.”
European Union’s medical authority and the World Health Organization say that cases of cerebral venous thrombosis, blood clots in the brain that lead to hemorrhages, are so rare they do not consider them grounds to alter administration of the shot.