French President Emmanuel Macron wants to pile pressure on the unvaccinated in an attempt to expand the vaccine rollout.
Mr Macron used the French word “emmerder” – rooted in the French word for 'c**p' and meaning to rile or to bug – in an interview published by Le Parisien.
His comments came as parliament debated new measures that will allow only the vaccinated to enjoy leisure activities such as eating out.
“The unvaccinated, I really want to hassle them. And so we will continue doing so, to the end. That’s the strategy,” Le Parisien quoted the French leader as saying in an interview at the presidential Elysee Palace with a panel of its readers.
The surprising choice of words further complicated the already difficult passage in parliament of the government’s planned new vaccine pass.
It will exclude the unvaccinated from places such as restaurants, cinemas, theatres, museums and sports arenas.
The pass will also be required on inter-regional trains and buses, and domestic flights.
Opposition lawmakers protested audibly as Mr Macron’s health minister, Olivier Veran, sought to defend the president’s choice of words.
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The heated parliamentary debate dragged into early Wednesday morning and was then again suspended.
Mr Veran said Mr Macron’s interview demonstrated his “intention, above all, to protect the population.”
Critics accused Mr Macron of behaviour unbecoming a president and of targeting the unvaccinated to win support from the 90% of French adults who are fully vaccinated.
Mr Macron is facing re-election in April.