According to Joe Biden’s White House, the 2021 U.N. General Assembly in New York has the potential to become a “superspreader event” for COVID-19.
The General Assembly necessarily involves the gathering together of international diplomats and world leaders in sometimes close quarters.
Biden’s ambassador to the U.N. is Linda Thomas-Greenfield. She told CBS News that the administration is concerned about the gathering and that it needs to “take all measures” to ensure that it does not become a “superspreader event.
This year’s participants in the General Assembly have the option of appearing by video rather than in person. Video participation was not offered in 2020. Thomas-Greenfield has asked participants to appear by video, although more than 100 plan to attend and give speeches personally. Biden is planning to appear in person at the event.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has had his health commissioner. The city’s Office for International Affairs sends a letter to Abdulla Shahid of the Maldives, the president of the upcoming General Assembly. In the letter, the city tells the U.N. president-elect that the General Assembly would be subject to the city’s law requiring proof of COVID vaccination to enter many indoor restaurants and entertainment venues.
The city’s letter also said that the U.N. General Assembly Hall qualifies under the law as a “convention center,” and attendees’ proof of vaccination will be required.
When de Blasio announced the “Key to New York City” vaccine passport rules, he said that the unvaccinated would “unfortunately” not be able to “participate in many things” in the city.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has said that he intends to attend the General Assembly in person. He says that he has not received a vaccination but has antibodies against the coronavirus because of having previously contracted COVID-19. Bolsonaro has said that he does not plan to receive a vaccine and will not show any vaccination proof to New York officials. The right-wing president said once “everyone has been vaccinated, I’ll decide my future.”
U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres of Portugal has said that it would not be legally possible to deny entry to the General Assembly to heads of state based on vaccination status. Bolsonaro is scheduled to give the opening speech at the international meeting.