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Backlash after Macron says his COVID strategy aims to ‘annoy’ the unvaccinated

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
French President Emmanuel Macron (photo by AFP)

French President Emmanuel Macron has generated major furor after insisting his government’s COVID vaccination strategy was aimed at “annoying” the unvaccinated and ardently making life harder for them.

“I am not about annoying the French people, but as for the non-vaccinated, I really want to annoy them,” Macron declared Tuesday during an interview with the country’s Le Parisien daily.

“And we will continue to do this, to the end. This is the strategy,” he further emphasized as he tried to warn that he intends to make life more difficult for people in France who are not yet vaccinated against the coronavirus.

“In a democracy, the worst enemies are lies and stupidity,” Macron said. “We are putting pressure on the unvaccinated by limiting, as much as possible, their access to activities in social life.”

The remarks came amid harsh objections by his political opponents and after the French lawmakers suspended a parliamentary debate on a controversial health pass on Tuesday, a move slammed by Macron’s administration as a “procedural coup.”

The legislation was expected to be approved in a vote later this week, however, it has angered vaccine opponents, and several French MPs have said they have received death threats over the issue.

The pass, introduced last summer, is required across France to gain access to indoor public places such as cafes, restaurants, cinemas, museums, concert venues, and sports centers, as well as to board long-distance trains and planes.

The French president, who also announced his intent to run for a second term in the next presidential polls in April but would not formally declare his candidacy until “the health situation allows,” further  asserted he was “not going to jail [the unvaccinated], or forcibly vaccinate them.”

He then added, “We have to tell them: from 15 January, you will no longer be able to go to the restaurant. You will no longer be able to go for a coffee; you will no longer be able to go to the theater. You will no longer be able to go to the cinema.”

Macron also noted that nearly 90 percent of the French population had already been vaccinated and thus were eligible for the health pass. He then stressed that it was “only a very small minority who are resisting. How do we reduce that minority? We reduce it – sorry for the expression – by annoying them even more.”

Politicians across France reacted strongly to Macron’s insulting words just a few month prior to the country’s next presidential elections.

“No health emergency justifies such words,” said Bruno Retailleau, the senate leader of the right-wing Republicans. “Emmanuel Macron says he has learned to love the French, but it seems he especially likes to despise them.”

Leader of the radical left France Insoumise Party, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, also slammed Macron’s language as “appalling,” saying, “It’s clear the vaccine pass is a collective punishment against individual liberties.”

Leader of the far-right National Rally, Marine Le Pen, further said a president “should not say such things,” noting that the language was “not worthy of the office” and that Macron was “turning the unvaccinated into second-class citizens.”

Polls, meanwhile, indicate that a large majority of French voters are growing evermore frustrated with the pandemic and back the vaccine pass as an effective means to end it, and of those who oppose it, very few are likely to cast their ballot for Macron.

For months, France has been asking people to show either proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test to access many public venues. The French government, however, intends to remove the option to show a negative test in response to a record surge in infections, driven by the COVID’s highly contagious Omicron and Delta variants.

The country reported 271,686 new daily coronavirus cases on Tuesday, the highest number of daily infections recorded in France since the outbreak of the pandemic.

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