French President Emmanuel Macron is known as a canny politician who carefully calibrates his public statements. So when he used some pungent language this week to talk about how his government should treat those who choose to remain unvaccinated against COVID-19, almost no one interpreted it as a mere slip of the tongue.
Across Western Europe — which, like much of the world, is coping with the wildfire spread of Omicron, the highly contagious coronavirus variant — the vaccine-hesitant are coming under mounting official pressure to get inoculated, if they are able. And that is triggering an impassioned backlash.
In one European country after another, public health restrictions are steadily tightening. Italy declared a vaccination mandate for those over age 50. The biggest party in Germany’s governing coalition says it will decide by the end of March whether to try to push through a universal vaccination mandate.