Macron takes a jab at the unvaccinated
The President of France has found himself in hot water after vowing to “piss off“, or “emmerder“, those who are yet to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
“I am not one for pissing off the French. However, when it comes to those who are unvaccinated, I really want to piss them off. So, we will continue to do exactly that until the end – that is the strategy.”French President, Emmanuel Macron, to the Le Parisien newspaper in his first interview of 2022
This unapologetically blunt statement was directed at the minority of France’s population who have not yet received all three doses of a COVID-19 vaccine and has sparked a great deal of controversy around the country; notably among those who have already expressed their discontent with the implementation of the ‘Passe Sanitaire’ in July 2021. The ‘health pass’ was introduced by the French government in an attempt to increase vaccine uptake and reduce cases of the virus, by restricting access to restaurants, cinemas, bars and other locations to those who are fully vaccinated or, alternatively, can provide evidence of a negative COVID test result. Since the onset of the restrictions, hundreds of thousands of French citizens have taken to the streets in protest, arguing that their freedom – a key value included in their national motto ‘Freedom, Equality, Fraternity’ – has been infringed upon.
Aggravating the situation further, Macron’s controversial interview came only two days before a large majority in the National Assembly passed a bill allowing only the inoculated to attend these public venues, and, if approved by the Senate, the President’s plan to “put pressure on the unvaccinated by limiting their access to social activities” will see itself gaining momentum.
the President’s more heavy-handed approach towards the vaccine drive is likely to encourage the support of many voters.
With the Omicron variant fuelling one of the biggest surges in coronavirus cases since the beginning of the pandemic, this move could provide the last chance for France to avoid yet another national lockdown. However, following Macron’s statement which has since been described as an attempt to “wage war against a portion of the French” by far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen, the National Assembly suspended the debate, putting the brakes on the legislation.
Given that Macron is set to run for re-election in only three months’ time, it would be easy to assume that his vulgar language aimed at those who he has described as “irresponsible” and lacking in the necessary values to be considered a true citizen, will jeopardise his success; however, it seems that his candid comments may have been more tactical than first thought. With around 77 per cent of the French population fully vaccinated, and many growing tired of yo-yo-ing between lockdowns, the President’s more heavy-handed approach towards the vaccine drive is likely to encourage the support of many voters.
Although only time will tell whether Macron’s coarse rhetoric will have a negative consequence on his popularity in the polls, one thing remains clear: the thorny debate surrounding the vaccine drive will continue to be deeply rooted in French society for time to come, characterised by a standoff between the country’s values of Liberté, Égalité and Fraternité.
Editor: Ryan Gerrett