UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – The United States is urging world leaders to send videos instead of traveling to New York next month for an annual high-level gathering at the United Nations, saying it would help prevent it “from being a super-spreader event” amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The meeting of world leaders for the 76th U.N. General Assembly, starting Sept. 21, is shaping up to be a hybrid event of in-person speeches and video statements as global vaccination rates vary and the spread of COVID-19 variants sparks concern.
“We need your help to prevent UNGA 76 High-Level Week from being a super-spreader event,” the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, wrote in an Aug. 13 letter to her counterparts in the 193-member world body.
“Heads of delegation should consider delivering their statements to the U.N. General Assembly’s General Debate by video. If delegations choose to travel to New York … we request delegations bring the minimum number of travelers necessary,” she said.
The United States is also calling for all U.N.-hosted meetings and any side events to be fully virtual. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is planning high-level events during the weeklong gathering on climate change, energy transition and food systems, diplomats said.
“Parallel meetings and high-level events drawing travelers to New York needlessly increases risk to our community, New Yorkers, and other travelers,” Thomas-Greenfield said.
Last year’s gathering had been billed as a celebration of the 75th anniversary of the world body, but leaders instead sent pre-recorded videos or had their New York-based U.N. ambassadors deliver statements due to COVID-19.
U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said on Tuesday that the United Nations was discussing this year’s event with the United States and that “things will become a little clearer as the days and weeks proceed.”
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; editing by Jonathan Oatis)