Biden administration worried UN General Assembly meeting could turn into COVID superspreader event
- U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield said Friday she is worried the General Assembly gathering could turn into a COVID superspreader event
- ‘We are concerned about the U.N. event being a superspreader event,’ Thomas-Greenfield said during a press conference
- President Joe Biden will speak at United Nations General Assembly meeting on Monday at the gathering hall in New York City
- There are already concerns over world leaders not following NYC vaccination protocols, which requires people to be vaccinated for all indoor activities
U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield said Friday she is worried the General Assembly gathering could turn into a COVID superspreader event
‘We are concerned about the U.N. event being a superspreader event, and that we need to take all measures to ensure that it does not become a superspreader event,’ President Joe Biden‘s Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield said during a press conference Friday.
World leaders began descending on New York City last week for the annual meeting, and Thomas-Greenfield notes they aren’t necessarily abiding by local vaccine requirements and other coronavirus-related restrictions.
President Joe Biden will head north on Monday to deliver remarks in-person to his international counterparts. He is expected to appear with a smaller-than-usual White House entourage.
Last year’s UNGA meeting, held at the height of the pandemic, forced world leaders to go virtual. This year, however, the meeting is being held in hybrid formatting, allowing heads of state to appear in person or by video message.
Thomas-Greenfield said she sent a note urging diplomats and world leaders to send in videos to be played throughout the two-week event.
More than 100 presidents, prime ministers and other leaders are expected to give in-person speeches.
New York City has some of the most restrictive COVID-19 rules currently, after Mayor Bill de Blasio imposed earlier this summer a mandate that people need to be vaccinated – and show proof of vaccination – to enjoy indoor activities like dining, concerts, movies and convention centers.
UNGA is held indoors at the U.N. General Assembly Hall, which qualified as a convention center, according to a September 9 letter from de Blasio’s Office for International Affairs.
New York City’s health commissioner informed the General Assembly president-elect Abdulla Shahid that UNGA would be covered by a local law requiring proof of vaccination for indoor venues.
Already indicative of clashes is Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro, who says he is not vaccinated but has antibodies from a COVID-19 infection last year. He announced he will attend UNGA in person while defying the New York City vaccine requirement.
President Joe Biden will speak at UNGA on Monday at the gathering hall in New York City
There are already concerns over world leaders and diplomats not following NYC vaccination protocols, which requires people to be vaccinated for indoor events – including at convention centers
Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia called the requirement ‘discriminatory’ and said he was ‘surprised and disappointed’ by the idea of requiring proof of vaccination to enter the General Assembly Hall.
Nebenzia claimed the rule is contrary to the 1947 agreement between the U.S. and the U.N. that establishes the world body’s international status.
After pushback on the requirement, Shahid walked back in a new letter on Thursday: ‘I would like to advise delegations that the honour system related to vaccinations … remains in place.’
Secretary General’s spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said Friday that the honor system means ‘by swiping a badge to enter the General Assembly Hall, delegates attest that they are fully vaccinated, that they have not tested positive for COVID‑19 in the last 10 days [and] have no symptoms.’
De Blasio announced New York City will open a pop-up testing and vaccination site at U.N. headquarters where attendees can get free COVID-19 tests and the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
The 2021 UNGA gathering kicked off last week and will conclude Tuesday.
Case rates of COVID-19 have been spiking in the U.S. as the Delta variant surges and more breakthrough cases emerge in vaccinated people
Deaths have also been on the rise as cases spike, reaching event some daily rates at the height of the pandemic in the winter