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Vaccinated Mr President? We'll take your word for it, UN says

  • >> Reuters
    Published: 2021-09-17 10:59:08 BdST

Tourists walk past the United Nations Headquarters in New York. At left is the UN General Assembly building and at right is the UN Secretariat building. Reuters

The United Nations COVID-19 vaccination honour system will remain in place for presidents, prime ministers and diplomats who enter the General Assembly Hall next week and they are not required to show proof of immunisation.

General Assembly President Abdulla Shahid notified the 193-member UN member states of the plan on Thursday in a letter, seen by Reuters, after telling them on Tuesday that he supported a New York City demand that proof was required and would work with UN chief Antonio Guterres to implement it.

But Shahid abandoned the push after Russia objected, saying it would be discriminatory, and Guterres told Reuters in an interview on Wednesday that the UN Secretariat "cannot tell a head of state if he is not vaccinated that he cannot enter the United Nations."

Dozens of heads of state and government and foreign ministers, accompanied by countless diplomats, are due to be in New York for the annual high-level gathering. Some leaders are staying away and sending a video statement instead because of the  COVID-19 pandemic.

Under the honour system on vaccination status, which began on June 1, diplomats swipe their UN identification card upon entry to the General Assembly Hall and that is considered a declaration that they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

The UN headquarters in Manhattan is international territory and is not subject to US laws. However, UN officials have previously pledged to abide by local and national guidance when it came to the pandemic.

New York City officials told the world body that under its rules people "entering the UN premises for the purpose of entering the General Assembly Hall would be required to show proof of vaccination in order to gain entry to the Hall."

Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Wednesday that the city would provide free COVID-19 testing and shots of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine at a site outside UN headquarters next week.