The French government has defended President Emmanuel Macron’s vow to ‘pi** off’ the unvaccinated, saying the unjabbed are already ‘pi**ing off’ health workers and businesses.
Macron, 44, made the cutting remark while responding to a nurse during a question and answer session with readers of Le Parisien on how the government will handle non-vaccinated people.
The phrase prompted howls of condemnation from rivals and forced parliament to suspend a debate on a Covid-19 bill today as opposition lawmakers demanded explanations from Macron.
The French President yesterday said he wanted to ‘pi** off’ unvaccinated people by making their lives so complicated they would end up getting jabbed.
‘By – and I’m sorry for putting it this way – by p***ing them off even more,’ Macron said.
‘I’m generally opposed to the French being p****d off. I complain all the time about administrative blockages. But when it comes to the non-vaccinated, I’m very keen to pi** them off. So we’re going to do it, the end. That’s our strategy.’
Government spokesman Gabriel Attal said it stood by Macron’s comments.
‘Who is pissing off who today?’, Attal said, quoting health workers struggling to cope or businesses hurt by the pandemic. ‘It’s those who refuse the vaccine.’
It comes as France set a record for new Covid cases over a 24-hour period on Wednesday with 335,000 additional infections recorded. It was the first time that French cases breached 300,000, smashing the previous record established on Tuesday when 271,686 new Covid cases were recorded.
The French government has defended President Emmanuel Macron’s vow to ‘pi** off’ the unvaccinated, saying the unjabbed are already ‘pi**ing off’ health workers and businesses
Hundreds of thousands of French have demonstrated against the ‘Pass Sanitaire’ and mandatory vaccination for health care workers in recent months
‘A president cannot say such things,’ Christian Jacob, chair of the conservative Les Republicans party, told parliament as it discussed a bill to make it mandatory for people to show proof of vaccination to enter many enclosed public spaces.
The legislation will remove the option, put in place last year, of showing a negative test, effectively barring unvaccinated people from hospitality venues or trains.
The plans have faced fierce resistance from anti-vaccination campaigners and far-right and far-left groups, but is backed by the government which has a majority in parliament.
French government officials yesterday vowed to enact the law as planned by mid-January despite the legislation hitting a procedural hitch in parliament overnight.
‘January 15 remains our goal,’ for the law coming into force, European Affairs Minister Clement Beaune told LCI television.
With a presidential election due in April in which he is expected to run, Macron may have calculated that enough people are now vaccinated – and upset with remaining anti-vaxxers – for his comment to go down well with voters.
It resonated with some.
‘He’s right,’ said 89-year-old Paris pensioner Jean, who’s had his Covid-19 booster and a flu shot too.
‘Those who are against the vaccine should understand the dangers, and they should get vaccinated.’
But others agreed with lawmaker Jacob that Macron’s use of the slang term ’emmerder’ – from ‘merde’ (sh*t) – was unacceptable.
‘That shows an aggressive side, it’s a bad word, it’s not very clever of him,’ said 25-year old sales representative Maya Belhassen.
‘That’s not a good comment from a president,’ added newspaper seller Pascal Delord.
France has historically had more vaccine sceptics than many of its neighbours, and pandemic restrictions have triggered many street protests.
But nearly 90 per cent of those aged 12 have now been inoculated, one of the continent’s highest Covid-19 vaccination rates.
In the Le Parisien interview, Macron, who has consistently called on everyone in France to get vaccinated, also called unvaccinated people irresponsible and – in another remark criticised by some voters and the opposition, that ‘irresponsible people are no longer citizens’.
He said he aims to irritate the unvaccinated into submission, rather than round them up and prosecute them.
‘I won’t send (the unvaccinated) to prison, I won’t vaccinate by force. So we need to tell them, from Jan. 15, you won’t be able to go to the restaurant anymore, you won’t be able to down one, won’t be able to have a coffee, go to the theatre, the cinema…’
Macron’s use of a very informal French phrase, which can be translated as ‘to p*** them off’, prompted immediate criticism by rivals on social media.
Macron did not say whether he would run for re-election but said he ‘would like to’.
‘A president shouldn’t say that,’ far right leader Marine Le Pen responded on Twitter. ‘Emmanuel Macron is unworthy of his office.’
People have for several months had to show either proof of vaccination or a negative Covid-19 test to enter venues such as cinemas and cafes and use trains.
But with Delta and Omicron variant infections surging, the government decided to drop the test option in the new bill.
French far-right party Rassemblement National (RN) candidate for the 2022 French presidential election Marine Le Pen said of Macron’s comments: ‘A president shouldn’t say that. Emmanuel Macron is unworthy of his office’
Protesters hold posters reading ‘Freedom’ and ‘No To Health Pass’ during a demonstration held last year by right-wing party ‘Les Patriotes’ against the COVID-19 sanitary pass which grants vaccinated individuals greater ease of access to venues in France, in Paris, France
Protesters hold posters reading ‘Freedom’ and ‘No To Health Pass’ during a demonstration in Paris on August 14
The opposition forced the suspension of the debate on the vaccine pass, shortly before 2am (0100 GMT). It resumed during the afternoon.
‘I’m in favour of the vaccine pass but I cannot back a text whose objective is to ‘piss off’ the French,’ Jacob told parliament before the suspension.
‘Is that your objective, yes or no? We cannot keep debating without having a clear answer on that.’
As the clear favourite in the polls, Macron has not yet officially said he was running, although his lieutenants are already preparing a campaign.
Macron also announced yesterday that France would not see fresh Covid restrictions amid a surge of new infections ahead of a government meeting today.
France registered around 270,00 new daily cases earlier on Tuesday, a new record.
The French president has been criticised in the past for off-the-cuff remarks which many French people said came across as arrogant, cutting or scornful. He has later expressed contrition on several occasions.