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(Bloomberg) — President Emmanuel Macron on Friday stood by the uncompromising stance and combative language he directed earlier this week at France’s unvaccinated citizens amid record numbers of new Covid-19 cases. 

Macron in a Tuesday interview with Le Parisien used salty language — saying he wants to “p— off” people refusing inoculation — to express zero-tolerance for failing to get fully vaccinated. The government, he said, will keep up the pressure on the holdouts as a way to contain skyrocketing case counts. 

“You can get upset about ways of talking which may sound colloquial, for which I take full responsibility. But what upsets me is the situation in which we are in,” Macron said at a Friday news conference in Paris. “It was my responsibility to ring the alarm. That’s what I did this week so that things will move faster.”

France is battling a record surge of cases and is struggling to contain the spread of the omicron variant that’s sweeping Europe and nations worldwide, threatening economic recoveries and overextended health care systems. The stakes for the 44-year-old president are also heightened as he’s expected to soon announce he’ll seek a second term in the April presidential election.

The president’s verbal broadside, which sparked a political uproar, comes as parliament is pushing ahead with legislation to restrict access to restaurants, museums, concerts and public transportation to the fully vaccinated. The lower house has approved the bill, the Senate will take it up next week and the government expects it to come into force Jan. 15.

While almost 80% of the French population is fully vaccinated, preliminary findings suggest that anti-Covid jabs are less effective against the omicron variant, now dominant in France and many other countries. French health officials reported a record 332,252 daily new infections Wednesday, 261,481 on Thursday and 328,214 on Friday.

While early data point to lower hospitalization and mortality rates from the omicron variant, its far higher transmissibility means that even if a smaller fraction of those infected become severely ill, the sheer numbers risk overwhelming hospitals and clinics. 

Macron hasn’t confirmed he’ll be a candidate in the upcoming election, but he told Le Parisien newspaper that he wants to run again while stressing that he hasn’t fully made up his mind.

The president has vowed to contain the virus spread while attempting to “limit the restrictions” in order to preserve the economy.

©2022 Bloomberg L.P.



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