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Macron announces Covid strategy to 'hassle' anti-vaxxers
5 January 2022, 07:41 | Updated: 5 January 2022, 07:46
French president Emmanuel Macron has sparked backlash after saying his Covid strategy is to "piss off" people who have not had their coronavirus jabs.
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He said on Tuesday the government's plan was to make the lives of unvaccinated people increasingly difficult.
"I am not about pissing off the French people," he said in an interview with readers of Le Parisien daily.
"But as for the non-vaccinated, I really want to piss them off.
"And we will continue to do this, to the end. This is the strategy."
His comments come as the French parliament debate new legislation which would change the rules for the country's health pass.
Introduced in the summer, the pass allows access to indoor public spaces such as restaurants, cinemas, museums and sports centres, and currently accepts a recent negative test as an alternative to vaccination.
But, if passed, the change would mean only those who are fully-vaccinated will qualify.
Mr Macron said the "worst enemies" to democracy are "lies and stupidity".
"We are putting pressure on the unvaccinated by limiting, as much as possible, their access to activities in social life," he said.
Almost 90 per cent of France's eligible population is vaccinated.
It is hoped the changes to the health pass - which also allows access to long-distance trains and planes - will encourage the "small minority who are resisting" to get vaccinated, according to Mr Macron.
"How do we reduce that minority? We reduce it - sorry for the expression - by pissing them off even more," he said.
He added he would not "forcibly" vaccinate anyone, but his comments have still attracted backlash from his political opponents.
Bruno Retailleau, head of the right-wing Republicans in the Senate, said Mr Macron's words were not justified by any health emergency.
He added: "Emmanuel Macron says he has learned to love the French, but it seems he especially likes to despise them."
Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right national Rally, accused the president of "turning the unvaccinated into second-class citizens".
But analysts have said the remarks could work in Mr Macron's favour, as French voters grow increasingly frustrated with the pandemic and see the health pass as a way of finally ending it.