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macron: Uproar in France after Macron vows to hassle unvaccinated

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PARIS: France President Emmanuel Macron drew fierce criticism on Wednesday after bluntly arguing that the government should make life miserable for the unvaccinated, as skyrocketing infection rates have put him under pressure to rein in the coronavirus pandemic ahead of a key presidential election. “I really want to piss off the unvaccinated,” Macron said in an interview with the newspaper Le Parisien. “And so we are going to continue doing that, until the end.”
Macron said that those who had refused vaccines were part of a small minority. About three-quarters of France’s 67 million people are fully vaccinated, but roughly 5 million French people have not received a single shot. “I’m not going to put them in prison,” he said. “I’m not going to vaccinate them by force.” Instead, the government is pushing a bill through parliament that will tighten the eligibility of France’s health pass by no longer allowing people to obtain one with negative tests. The pass grants access to restaurants, cafes, museums and other public spaces. Once the bill is approved, only proof of vaccination – or, in some cases, of recovery from Covid-19 – will be accepted, effectively barring the unvaccinated from large sections of French social life.
France has seen record-breaking numbers of new cases almost every day over the past week – 332,252 for Wednesday alone – and hospitalisations are steadily increasing. 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 number of Covid deaths in hospitals rose by 246 to 97,670 in the last 24 hours. The total of Covid patients in hospital ICUs stood at 3,695 while there were over 20,000 Covid patients in hospital in total, the highest number since late May.
Macron has consistently made it clear that his government’s strategy was to make life for unvaccinated French people uncomfortable. But his comments, which were published late Tuesday on the newspaper’s website, marked the first time he stated so in such a “crude” way, even as the rapid surge of the Omicron variant is already fraying France’s social contract on Covid. Macron’s comments quickly caused an uproar in Parliament, interrupting a session where lawmakers were debating the government’s vaccination bill.
Reaction from his political opposition was swift. Christian Jacob, the head of the right-wing Republicans party, said the comments were unbecoming of a French head of state. “I cannot support a bill whose only goal is to piss off the French,” he said. Marine Le Pen, the far-right leader and one of Macron’s main opponents, accused him of “waging war” on the unvaccinated. Macron’s comments come less than four months before the elections.
The statement, however, resonated with some. “He’s right,” said a 89-year-old Paris pensioner. “Those who are against the vaccine should understand the dangers, and they should get vaccinated.” Stephane Sejourne, a member of the European Parliament and close ally of Macron’s, defended the president’s comments, arguing that it was the unvaccinated who were bothering the French by overburdening hospitals, exhausting health staff and “forcing the rest of the population to endure curbs.” “So yes, we’ve to piss them off.” NYT





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