The French Parliament suspended a debate on new Coronavirus measures on Wednesday after it emerged that French President Emmanuel Macron had stated earlier that he wanted to “piss off” the unvaccinated.
Opposition lawmakers expressed outrage over the President’s comments, demanding that he explain to them exactly what he had meant by that statement, as well as another, when he said that “irresponsible” people were no longer French citizens.
The uproar ensues just four months before another presidential election in France.
French President Macron declares unvaccinated “irresponsible people” are “no longer citizens”
His interview with Le Parisien newspaper, published late on Tuesday, reverberated around the nation at a time when new restrictions to help stem the spread of the virus were about to be discussed.
Proposed legislation that is now before the French Parliament would make it mandatory for French residents to show proof of vaccination to enter a restaurant or a cinema, or take a train.
Macron, who called unvaccinated people “irresponsible” in the interview, stated that he planned to make their daily lives so complicated that they would eventually give up and get the vaccine.
“Irresponsible people are no longer citizens,” he declared, in his second comment that was blasted by opposition lawmakers.
“A president cannot say such things,” declared lawmaker Christian Jacob, who chairs the conservative “Les Republicans” party, before Parliament. “I’m in favor of the vaccine pass but I cannot back a text whose objective is to ‘piss off’ the French.
“Is that your objective, yes or no? We cannot keep debating without having a clear answer on that,” he charged.
Additional opposition figures also took a stand against Macron’s inflammatory comments, demanding that Prime Minister Jean Castex speak with them about the issue. The parliamentary session was then suspended, just before 2 a.m (0100 GMT). It is expected to resume at 3 p.m.
Although there were enormous protests against the vaccines last year, and France has historically had a greater number of vaccine skeptics than other European nations, it still has one of the highest coronavirus vaccination rates in Europe.
Now, almost 90% of French citizens aged 12 and over have been vaccinated.
Macron stated in the Le Parisien interview that he “would like to” run for President again but would not be more specific about his plans.
The word he used — “emmerder” — is a slang word that can also be translated as “annoy.”
For the past several months, France, like other European nations, has had restrictions on public venues, with the public having to show either proof of vaccination or a negative Covid-19 test to enter.
However, with the number of positive tests soaring, the government decided to do away with the test option in the proposed legislation.
Meanwhile, the United States reported almost 1 million new coronavirus infections on Monday, the highest daily rate of any nation in the world; this is almost double the previous American record, set just one week ago, as the spread of the Omicron variant shows no signs of slowing down.
The number of those hospitalized with the coronavirus in the US has risen nearly 50% in the past week and is now over 100,000, according to data collated by Reuters; this is the first time in a year that that mark has been reached.
The United States has experienced a daily average of 486,000 new coronavirus cases over the past week, at a rate that has doubled over the same period of time.