France’s Macron Says He Wants to ‘Piss Off’ the Unvaccinated
(Bloomberg) -- French President Emmanuel Macron took Europe’s aggressive stance against the unvaccinated up a notch, saying he wants to “p--- off” people who don’t get their Covid-19 shot.
“We will continue to do this, to the end. This is the strategy,” he said in an interview with newspaper Le Parisien. He added that means “limiting as much as possible their access to activities in social life.”
The comments sparked an angry response from opposition politicians in France, and led to the National Assembly suspending a debate on new virus restrictions. Prime Minister Jean Castex, who spoke to lawmakers in the Senate on Wednesday, stood by the comments.
“The president’s remarks are perfectly consistent with what we’ve been doing” to tackle the virus and promote vaccination, he said.
Targeted measures are already in action in a number of countries, where those who aren’t vaccinated are restricted when it comes to accessing bars, restaurants and other day-to-day activities. The drive to get more people inoculated has stepped up since the emergence of the omicron variant, which has sent cases surging at record rates across Europe.
But dividing the population between the vaccinated and unvaccinated has proved controversial, and there have been numerous protests against such policies.
The verb used by Macron in the interview -- “emmerder” in French -- is informal slang commonly used to insult people. It can also mean to hassle, or annoy.
French politicians expressed dismay at Macron’s comments. Valerie Pecresse, presidential candidate for conservative party The Republicans, said on CNews she was “outraged by his comments” and that “insults are never a good solution.”
Far-right leader Marine Le Pen was also quick to respond to the “vulgarity” of Macron’s language and said on Twitter that it showed a “serious moral fault.”
Surveys show that Macron has widespread support for his vaccination strategy.
According to an internet poll of 1,006 people conducted Dec. 21 and Dec. 22 by Odoxa for newspaper Le Figaro, 64% are in favor of the government’s proposal to strengthen the country’s health pass so that a recent negative test is no longer sufficient, and only those vaccinated can enter certain places including bars and restaurants.
In the interview with Le Parisien, Macron also said the unvaccinated don’t live up to their civic duties. “When my freedom ends up endangering that of others, I am irresponsible,” he said. “An irresponsible person is no longer a citizen.”
“Let’s speak frankly: who’s really doing the p---ing off?,” French government spokesman Gabriel Attal said, adding that public anger at the unvaccinated seems more intense than Macron’s choice of words. “It’s also our responsibility to take the necessary measures to protect all the French people and sometimes to protect some French people from themselves.”
Pressure on those who turn down Covid shots is intensifying elsewhere too. German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said late Tuesday that people who have refused vaccines “can’t expect contact restrictions to be lifted in the short- or medium-term.”
“The vaccine mandate needs to come quickly,” the Harvard-trained epidemiologist told the RND media group. Allowing omicron to spread through the population as a “dirty vaccine” would be “very dangerous.”
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