PARIS — French parliament suspended debate on a new Covid-19 law early on Wednesday as opposition lawmakers demanded explanations from President Emmanuel Macron about comments in which he said he wanted to “piss off” unvaccinated people.
Macron made the remark in an interview with Le Parisien newspaper published late on Tuesday. He also said unvaccinated people were “irresponsible” and that he planned to make their lives so complicated that they would end up having a vaccine.
The term Macron used in the interview, which was published shortly before lawmakers were to resume a debate over the new legislation, is a vulgar word that is often translated as “piss off” but can also mean “get on someone's nerves.”
The legislation will make it mandatory for people to show proof of Covid-19 vaccination to enter a restaurant or cinema, or take 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 (8 p.m. ET Tuesday) 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 percent 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.