Emmanuel Macron sparked controversy after admitting to wanting to “p*** off” unvaccinated French by wanting to limit “as much as possible their access to activities in social life.” He was questioned about his comments during a press conference with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, and faced criticism of being “not super diplomatic” for derailing the event to focus on his Covid policy. France 24 European Affair Editor Catherine Nicholson questioned the language the French President used, noting a leader taking over the leadership of the European Union is usually more set on winning over support from EU partners.
Ms Nicholson said: “Ursula von der Leyen spoke a little bit more guardedly about this topic.
“She talked about balancing freedoms for individuals and the collective.
“It was perhaps not super diplomatic of Macron to talk so much about this on this particular grand occasion, launching France’s rotational presidency of the Council.
“As the country holding that position as France is, you’re normally meant to be sort of seeking consensus, trying to bring European countries together and not launching great fiery debates and being controversial.”
President Macron said he stood by his earlier comments saying he wanted to warn the five million French people who are still not vaccinated against COVID-19, adding it was his responsibility to sound the alarm given the Omicron threat.
He said: “I stand by my earlier comments.”
The French leader added it was the authorities’ obligation to place restrictions against those who are not vaccinated, to protect the more than 90 percent of French citizens who are vaccinated.
France is reporting more than 200,000 daily new COVID-19 cases on average, an all-time record, due to the high contagiousness of the new Omicron coronavirus variant.
Some hospitals have reported that some 85 percent of ICU patients are not vaccinated against the coronavirus.
The latest data available has shown that 90 percent of over-12s eligible for the COVID shot are fully vaccinated.
People in France already have to show either proof of vaccination or a negative test to enter restaurants and bars and use inter-regional trains.
But with Omicron infections surging, the Macron Government wants to drop the test option.
Three months before a presidential election, Mr Macron’s blunt language appeared to be calculated, tapping into a mounting frustration against the unvaccinated.
Conservative challenger Valerie Pecresse said Macron was driving a wedge through the country. Far-right candidate Eric Zemmour denounced what he called the president’s puerile remarks.