France's President Emmanuel Macron has sparked an uproar after declaring his government's intention to "piss off" the unvaccinated, France 24 reported.
Speaking to French media outlet Le Parisien, Macron was quoted as saying, "The unvaccinated, I really want to piss them off. And so, we're going to continue doing so until the end. That's the strategy."
He added that while the French government will not force the vaccine on the unvaccinated, or jail them, it will put pressure on the unvaccinated by limiting their access to social activities, The Guardian reported.
"Only a very small minority who are resisting. How do we reduce that minority? We reduce it – sorry for the expression – by pissing them off even more.
We have to tell them: from Jan. 15, 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 theatre. You will no longer be able to go to the cinema."
He added, "In a democracy, the worst enemies are lies and stupidity", and, "When my freedoms threaten those of others, I become someone irresponsible. Someone irresponsible is not a citizen."
Slammed by political opponents
Macron was criticised by his political opponents for excessive language and being unworthy of his post in response.
The leader of the right-wing Les Républicains party, Bruno Retailleau, said:
"No health emergency justifies such words. Emmanuel Macron says he has learned to love the French, but it seems he especially likes to despise them. We can encourage vaccination without insulting anyone or pushing them to radicalisation."
Meanwhile, Marine Le Pen, the leader of the far-right National Rally party added, "A president shouldn't say that. Emmanuel Macron is unworthy of his office."
France will hold a presidential election later this year, with Macron not certain to win, and at least one French news outlet (Le Monde) commented that the tensions were linked to the election campaign.
Comments made amidst push for new Covid-19 bill that makes vaccination compulsory for public transport and spaces
Macron's comments were made amidst a push in France's legislature to pass a bill that will make vaccination mandatory for using public transport, and entering public spaces such as restaurants and cinemas, starting from Jan. 15, France 24 further reported.
The bill implements a stricter health pass that requires proof of someone being fully vaccinated.
Currently, people in France have to show either proof of vaccination or a negative Covid-19 test to enter public venues, according to The Guardian.
On the night of of Jan. 3, a debate on the bill was prevented from continuing past midnight after opposition MPs from Les Républicains, the far-right and the far-left teamed up to stop the debate.
The government had called for the debate to continue past midnight in order for the bill to be passed by the end of the week.
The bill has angered anti-vaccination activists and several French MPs have also received death threats for supporting the bill, with one MP adding that they were being threatened for "attacking our freedom".
France's health minister, Olivier Véran, has since condemned the threats and slammed the "selfishness" of opponents of vaccination.
"The aim of this law is not to curb freedoms … it is to save lives," he said.
According to the French government, at least 91 per cent of the adult population have been fully vaccinated.
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Top Photo via Emmanuel Macron Facebook