France’s President Emmanuel Macron has sparked outrage after using divisive, vulgar language to say he wanted to make life difficult for unvaccinated people.
He told Le Parisien newspaper: “I really want to piss them off, and we’ll carry on doing this – to the end.”
Three months ahead of a presidential election, opponents of President Macron said his words were unworthy of a president.
French lawmakers halted debate on a law barring the unvaccinated from much of public life.
The session in the National Assembly was brought to a standstill for a second night running on January 4 as opposition delegates complained about the president’s language, with one leading figure describing it as “unworthy, irresponsible and premeditated”.
The legislation is expected to be approved in a vote this week, but it has angered vaccine opponents.
Mandatory vaccinations are being introduced in several European countries, with Austria leading the way for over-14s from next month and Germany planning a similar move for adults. Italy’s government was on January 5 considering a compulsory vaccine pass for at least anyone over 60.
In his interview with Le Parisien on January 4, President Macron used the vulgar term emmerder to say how he wanted to stir up the unvaccinated. He would not “vaccinate by force” the remaining five million who had not had a dose, but hoped to encourage people to get the vaccines by “limiting as much as possible their access to activities in social life”.
He said: “I won’t send [unvaccinated people] to prison.
“So we need to tell them, from January 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.”
Ahead of a presidential election campaign in which Emmanuel Macron is yet to announce his intention to run, his remarks prompted a strong reaction from opposition figures.
Right-wing Republicans candidate Valérie Pécresse said she was outraged that the president had accused unvaccinated people of not being citizens.
“You have to accept them as they are – lead them, bring them together and not insult them,” she told CNews.
Party colleague Bruno Retailleau said pointedly: “Emmanuel Macron says he has learned to love the French, but it seems he especially likes to despise them.”
Far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen tweeted: “A president shouldn’t say that… Emmanuel Macron is unworthy of his office.”
Meanwhile, leftist politician Jean-Luc Mélenchon described the remarks as an astonishing confession: “It’s clear, the vaccination pass is a collective punishment against individual freedom.”
The latest opinion gave President Macron the edge over his rivals on January 5, with 27% of votes in the first round on April 10, ahead of Valérie Pécresse and Marine Le Pen both on 16%. The poll for Le Figaro/LCI also gave him a run-off victory, with the closest margin of 55%-45% with the Republican candidate.
Emmanuel Macron’s choice of language is not unprecedented for a French leader.
The same word was used by Georges Pompidou in 1966 when he said it was time to stop annoying the French. Like him, Emmanuel Macron said his role was not to irritate the French, but the unvaccinated was a different story.
PM Jean Castex told parliament later that people everywhere were saying the same as the president. “Our citizens have a sense of exasperation seeing a whole kind of restrictions imposed while others choose to break free of them.”
France has one of the highest Covid vaccination rates in the EU, with more than 90% of the adult population double-jabbed.
For months France has asked people to show either proof of vaccination or a negative Covid test to access many public venues.
However, the French government wants to remove the option to show a negative test in response to record increases in infections, driven by the highly contagious Omicron and Delta variants of Covid.
On January 5, France reported 332,252 new daily Covid cases – the highest number of daily infections recorded in the country since the start of the pandemic.
Israel has the highest coronavirus vaccination rate in the world with 11.55 doses per 100 people.
It is followed by Bahrain at 3.49 and the UK at 1.47, according to a global tracking website affiliated with Oxford University.
In comparison, France had vaccinated 138 people in total by December 30.
More than 1.8 million people have now died of Covid-19 around the world.
The comparative figures on vaccination are put together by Our World in Data, which is a collaboration between Oxford University and an educational charity.
They measure the number of people who have received a first dose of the coronavirus vaccine. Most of the vaccines approved for use so far rely on two doses, given more than a week apart.
The US fell far short of its target of vaccinating 20 million people by the end of 2020, with just 2.78 million having received a jab by December 30.
Meanwhile, Dr. Anthony Fauci has said he does not agree with UK plans to give as many people as possible a first vaccine dose, while delaying second doses.
He said the US would not be adopting a similar strategy.
India has meanwhile approved two vaccines for emergency use – the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine and the Covaxin vaccine, developed locally by Bharat Biotech and the state-run Indian Council of Medical Research.
Two further vaccines are awaiting approval. India aims to vaccinate 300 million people by the middle of the year and has been staging drills to prepare for mass distribution.
India is holding a national drill for its vaccination program, which is aiming to reach 300 million people by the middle of the year.
It will rely on the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, which has now been recommended by a government panel. The Oxford vaccine does not require the same storage at extremely low temperatures as the Pfizer vaccine, making it suitable for distribution to areas without sophisticated health care facilities.
The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is known as Covishield in India, where it is being manufactured by the Serum Institute of India. Another vaccine, developed by Bharat Biotech, has been approved for emergency use.
Covid-19 has already claimed nearly 150,000 lives in India, with about 10 million people infected – second only to the number infected in the US.
Israel began vaccinations on December 19 and is delivering the shot to about 150,000 people a day, with priority given to the over-60s, health workers and people who are clinically vulnerable.
It secured supplies of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine following negotiations early on in the pandemic. It is contacting people with priority access to the vaccine through its health care system – by law all Israelis must register with a recognized health care provider.
Israel has safely subdivided shipments of the Pfizer vaccine, which must be stored at -70C, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein told YNet TV news. This means smaller batches of the vaccine can be sent out to remote communities.
PM Benjamin Netanyahu, who is campaigning for re-election, has predicted Israel could emerge from the pandemic as early as February. It is currently in its third national lockdown.
In the first three days of the EU vaccination campaign, which launched on December 27, France inoculated fewer than 100 people. In comparison, Germany had given more than 190,000 vaccines by January 2.
Part of the difficulty in France stems from the widespread scepticism about the vaccination. In a 15-country poll carried out by Ipsos Global Advisor, just 40% of French respondents said they would be willing to have the vaccine.
This compares to 80% in China, 77% in the UK, and 69% in the US.
Earlier this week, the French health minister defended the slow pace of vaccinations, saying authorities had chosen to give the vaccine in care homes to elderly residents, rather than making them travel.
Joe Biden has vowed 100 million Covid-19 vaccinations in his first 100 days in office.
The president-elect said his first months in office would not end the outbreak and gave few details on a rollout plan but he said he would change the course of Covid-19.
Introducing his health team for when he takes office on January 20, Joe Biden urged Americans to “mask up for 100 days”.
On December 8, a report paved the way for a Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine to be approved and rolled out for Americans.
Emergency authorization for its use could be issued by the FDA on December 10, with the country’s top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci saying mass vaccination could start as soon as next week.
Also on December 8, President Donald Trump attended a summit at the White House of his Covid-19 vaccination program, Operation Warp Speed, and hailed the expected approval of vaccines. His administration hopes to vaccinate as many as 24 million people by mid-January.
According to Johns Hopkins University research, the US has recorded more than 15 million cases so far and 285,000 deaths, both global highs.
Many parts of the US are seeing peak infections, with record numbers of people in hospital, with some experts blaming travel by millions over the recent Thanksgiving holiday.
At a news conference in Delaware on December 8, Joe Biden laid out how he plans to address the pandemic in his first 100 days in office. That period is traditionally seen as a benchmark for new presidents to make their mark with new policies and ideas.
He vowed to get “at least 100 million Covid vaccine shots into the arms of the American people”.
Last week, Joe Biden complained he had been given no rollout plans by the Trump administration. Operation Warp Speed’s top scientist Moncef Slaoui has still to meet the Biden team and is expected to do so this week.
Getting children back to school would also be a priority, he said.
Joe Biden also introduced California Attorney General Xavier Becerra as his nomination for health secretary and his choice of Rochelle Walensky as head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Among his other aides will be Dr. Anthony Fauci as chief Covid medical adviser. The expert also advised the Trump team and often fell foul of the president for his views.
Getting 100 million vaccines to Americans in just over three months is not expected to be easy. The large geographical size of the US and the logistics of rolling out a new vaccine could present challenges in achieving the goal.
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