With a presidential election looming in April, in which he is expected to run, Macron may have calculated that enough people are now vaccinated – and upset with those who have not been vaccinated – for his comments to go down well with voters.
But the interview with Le Parisien newspaper, published late on Tuesday, was widely condemned by opposition lawmakers, who forced the suspension of the debate over the new restrictions.
The draft bill will make it mandatory for people to show proof of vaccination to enter a restaurant, cinema, or take the train.
In the interview, Macron also said unvaccinated people were “irresponsible” and that he planned to make their lives so complicated that they would end up having a vaccine.
“Irresponsible people are no longer citizens,” he said, in another comment criticised by the opposition.
“A president cannot say such things,” lawmaker Christian Jacob, who chairs the opposition, conservative Les Republicans party, told parliament. “I’m in favour 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.
France has historically had more vaccine sceptics than many of its neighbours, and pandemic restrictions have triggered many street protests, but it now has one of the highest Covid-19 vaccination rates in the European Union. Nearly 90% of French aged 12 and over have been vaccinated.
In the interview, in which he responded to questions from a small group of Le Parisien readers, Macron did not say whether he would run for re-election but said he “would like to”.
The “piss off” comments – “emmerder” is a slang verb that can also be translated as “annoy” – was made in response to one of these readers, a nurse, who asked him about surgeries postponed for some vaccinated people because hospitals are busy treating non-vaccinated sick with Covid-19.
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.
(Reporting by Benoit Van Overstraeten and Ingrid Melander; Editing by Dominique Vidalon and Timothy Heritage)
Information pertaining to Covid-19, vaccines, how to control the spread of the virus and potential treatments is ever-changing. Under the South African Disaster Management Act Regulation 11(5)(c) it is prohibited to publish information through any medium with the intention to deceive people on government measures to address COVID-19. We are therefore disabling the comment section on this article in order to protect both the commenting member and ourselves from potential liability. Should you have additional information that you think we should know, please email [email protected]