German Chancellor Angela Merkel called 2020 the most difficult year of her time in leadership during what is likely to be her last New Year’s address.
Merkel made the declaration during an uncharacteristically emotional speech, Reuters reports. Merkel is currently serving her fourth and final term as chancellor.
“I think I am not exaggerating when I say: never in the last 15 years have we found the old year so heavy and never have we, despite all the worries and some skepticism, looked forward to the new one with so much hope,” said Merkel.
Merkel has received praise throughout the pandemic, Reuters notes, for her strong commitment to science and her success in combating the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic. In 2018, Merkel announced she would not be seeking reelection at the end of her term and would step down in 2021.
“I can only imagine how bitter it must feel for those mourning loved ones lost to corona or who are having to fight against the repercussions of an illness when the virus is disputed and denied by some hopeless individuals," Merkel said.
Merkel enacted new, tighter coronavirus restrictions earlier in December, citing the record-breaking number of cases seen in Germany. The new restrictions canceled in-person schooling, limited indoor gatherings to no more than 5 people and closed down most nonessential shops.
Germany was one of the first of the European nations to begin a second lockdown in the winter when coronavirus cases began to rise. France, Italy and the United Kingdom soon followed suit.
Reuters notes that although Merkel will not seek reelection, there is a chance she could remain in power until 2022 if the September election in Germany drags on beyond December.