As more Americans and Europeans grow to doubt the credibility of their government's response to omicron, several European leaders are embracing notably harsh rhetoric that might risk alienating more members of the public as they try to demonize those who have refused to take the vaccines.
We have already written about how French President Emmanuel Macron has denounced "anti-vaxxers" as "non-citizens" while vowing to "piss them off." But he's not alone, which begs the question: are leaders lashing out at a new boogeyman as they grow more desperate to double down and push vaccines, even as the omicron wave has demonstrated their myriad shortcomings. Just ask all the boosted celebrities who have tested positive, or even been hospitalized, with COVID.
In the UK, PM Boris Johnson dismissed their concerns as "nonsense".
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who supports making shots compulsory, has labeled the anti-vax movement "a tiny minority of reckless extremists."
With about 70% of Europe's population vaccinated, politicians apparently feel emboldened to attack the holdouts. And even as Macron has doubled down on his rhetoric, thousands marched on Saturday involving several thousand people gathering across France to protest against restrictions for the non-vaccinated, brandishing placards denouncing Macron’s choice of language and his government’s latest efforts.
France's new measures bar the unvaccinated from restaurants and bars, despite the fact that most people who are being infected are being infected by the already vaccinated - and evidence suggests that vaccines to almost nothing to limit spread.
And France isn't alone. Neighboring Italy on Wednesday made shots compulsory for people over 50, though the fine of €100 ($113) for non-compliance has deliberately been kept low.
After becoming one of the first European nations to lock down this past fall as cases climbed, Austria is now barring the unvaccinated from most areas of public life.
Some would even say Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, is already in what some officials have described as a "lockdown of the unvaccinated," with strict limits on access to theaters and other leisure activities.
"Anyone who hasn’t been immunized is endangering themselves," Scholz said.
But even if that is true, can we really say they're putting the vaccinated at risk?