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© Reuters. Reuters interview: United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres moves during a conversation with Reuters in Manhattan, New York City. September 15th, 2021. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

By Michelle Nichols and Mary Milliken

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – U.N. chief Antonio Guterres stressed on Wednesday that he cannot ask world leaders to show they have been vaccinated against COVID-19, after New York City officials said proof should be required for anyone entering the U.N. General Assembly Hall.

Next week, dozens of foreign and state ministers and heads of government will be visiting New York for the annual High-Level Meeting at United Nations. Due to the outbreak of coronavirus in New York City, some heads are opting for a video message rather than sending one.

New York City officials informed the United Nations that anyone entering U.N. premises to enter the General Assembly Hall for purposes of entry would need to present proof of vaccination.

However, Secretary-General Guterres said in an interview to Reuters that the Secretariat cannot inform a head or state that if he’s not vaccinated, he can’t enter the United Nations.

Manhattan’s U.N. Headquarters is an international property and not under U.S. law. U.N. officials previously pledged to follow local and national guidelines when dealing with the pandemic.

We have been discussing with the municipal authorities the various ways we can ensure the greatest number of people are vaccinated. The New York Mayor’s Office has also provided a vaccine capacity. Guterres stated that everyone who comes will be able get vaccinated.

Guterres claimed that discussions about how many diplomatic travelers might have been immunized showed “how extreme the inequality today regarding vaccination.” He said that New York’s “overwhelming majority of” delegations would have been vaccinated.

Out of 5.7 billion doses of coronavirus vaccines https://graphics.reuters.com/world-coronavirus-tracker-and-maps/vaccination-rollout-and-access administered around the world, only 2% have been in Africa.

Guterres warns that the danger of spreading the virus to more people is higher the longer it circulates. Guterres is calling for a global strategy to vaccinate 70% of the world’s population within the first six months of next year.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Wednesday that the city would provide COVID-19 testing and the single-dose Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:) vaccine at a site outside U.N. headquarters next week.

De Blasio expressed gratitude to Abdulla Shahid (UN General Assembly President) for saying in a letter to U.N. counterparts that he supports vaccination proof and would collaborate with the secretary-general on implementing the requirement.

Russian U.N. On Wednesday, Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia claimed that Moscow had objected to any person being asked to prove their vaccination status in order to be admitted to the General Assembly. She described such an action as discriminatory.

Nebenzia urged the General Assembly on Thursday to address the matter in a letter addressed to U.N. colleagues. The date of such a meeting was not yet known.

Officials from New York City told the United Nations the spreading of highly contagious Delta virus was a concern. They also said that there had been an increase in new cases over the last two months.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield (the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations) urged world leaders last month to send video statements instead of travelling to New York. She said it would prevent “from becoming a super-spreader” event.

No delegations were sent to New York last year, and leaders around the world sent videos instead.

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