| 20 April 2024, Saturday |

French parliament suspends COVID debate after Macron ‘piss off’ remark

Early on Wednesday, the French parliament took a break from debating a new COVID-19 law after opposition MPs requested explanations from President Emmanuel Macron after remarks in which he stated he intended to “piss off” unvaccinated individuals.

Macron made the comment in a late-Tuesday interview with the daily Le Parisien. He also added that individuals who aren’t vaccinated are “irresponsible” and that he meant to make their life so difficult that they would have to be vaccinated.

The interview was released just as MPs were about to continue debating the new legislation, which will require people to provide confirmation of COVID-19 immunization in order to enter a restaurant, go to the movies, or ride the train.

The session was rapidly taken over by discussion of his comments.

“A president cannot say such things,” lawmaker Christian Jacob, who chairs the opposition, conservative Les Republicans party, told 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.”

Other opposition echoed Jacob’s comments and demanded Prime Minister Jean Castex come to talk to them. The session was suspended shortly before 2 a.m (0100 GMT) and was due to resume at 3 p.m.

Though France has historically had more vaccine sceptics than many of its neighbors, it has one of the highest COVID-19 vaccination rates in the European Union, with nearly 90% of French aged 12 and over vaccinated.

With a presidential election looming in April, in which he is widely expected to run, Macron may have calculated that his comments on the unvaccinated would go down well with voters.

He said in the interview he “would like to” run again and his remarks became the top trending topics on Twitter in France.

For months, people have had to show either proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test at many public venues. But as infections with the Delta and Omicron variants surge, the government has decided to drop the test option in the new bill.

  • Reuters