16 Sep 2021, 09:23
Update : 16 Sep 2021, 10:13

New York says UNGA delegates must be vaccinated, angering Russia

 NEW YORK, Sept 16, 2021 (BSS/AFP) - All leaders and diplomats attending the
United Nations General Assembly in New York next week will have to provide
proof of vaccination, the city government said Wednesday, sparking anger from

  Delegates must be vaccinated to enter the debate hall, the mayor's office
told the assembly president in a letter dated September 9, but Moscow queried
whether New York had the authority to enforce the mandate.

  Attendees must also be vaccinated if they want to eat or exercise indoors,
the letter added.

  More than one hundred leaders including US President Joe Biden, Brazil's
Jair Bolsonaro, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and British Prime
Minister Boris Johnson have announced they plan to attend in person. Others
will make an address via videolink.

  Bolsonaro, who had the virus last year, has said he would be the "last
Brazilian" to get vaccinated.

  His office did not immediately respond to requests for comment from AFP
regarding the New York announcement.

  New York began enforcing a vaccine mandate on Monday, requiring proof of at
least one shot for many indoor activities, including restaurants and
entertainment venues.

  The letter signed by New York City's health commissioner and confirmed by
his spokesman said the UN debate hall was classified as a "convention
center," meaning all attendees must be vaccinated.

  "They must also show proof of vaccination prior to dining, drinking or
exercising indoors on the UN campus, and in order to partake in all of New
York City's wonderful entertainment, dining and fitness activities," he said.

  - 'Clearly discriminatory measure' -

  But Russia's ambassador requested an urgent meeting of the General Assembly
to discuss the move.

  Vassily Nebenzia wrote to assembly president Abdulla Shahid Wednesday
saying he had been "very much surprised and disappointed" by a letter Shahid
wrote to members in which he supported the proof of vaccination requirement.

  "We strongly object that only people with a proof of vaccination should be
admitted to the GA hall," Nebenzia wrote in the letter seen by AFP.

  He described it as "a clearly discriminatory measure," adding that
preventing delegates to access the hall was a "clear violation of the UN

  New York accepts all vaccines that have been approved by either the World
Health Organization or America's federal Food and Drug Administration.

  Nebenzia said the "rights of people who have received vaccines that are not
approved by the CDC" must also be taken into consideration.

  He added that the agreement between the United States and the UN over the
world body's headquarters prohibited US actors from regulating the running of
the UN.

  The city's letter also reminded diplomats that New York state requires
everyone to wear masks on public transport.

  "New York City strongly encourages universal mask use indoors regardless of
vaccination status," the note added.

  Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement that the city would set up a pop-
up vaccination site at the UN headquarters next week offering free single-
dose Johnson & Johnson shots.

  The high-level week of the 76th session of the General Assembly starts on
Tuesday and finishes the following Monday.

  It will be a combined in-person and remote event after last year's UNGA
took place virtually because of the pandemic.

  Dozens and sometimes hundreds of people usually accompany leaders on
foreign trips but because of coronavirus each delegation is only allowed
seven people into the UN headquarters and only four into the hall.

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