United Nations to use honor system to check vaccinations for general assembly in NYC

World leaders who want to speak at the United Nations General Assembly next week in New York City will have to be vaccinated against the coronavirus.

The U.N. General Assembly is relying on an honor system — and only an honor system — to ensure that world leaders have been vaccinated before they speak at next week's big meeting, the assembly president said.

Presidents, premiers, monarchs and other dignitaries won't have to show vaccination cards or other proof of inoculation — they'll simply attest to it by swiping their ID badges at the assembly hall, G.A. President Abdulla Shahid said in a letter Thursday. The assembly began testing the same policy in June for diplomats at its day-to-day meetings.

Still, it could quickly raise thorny questions at the biggest global diplomatic gathering of the year. 

The move prompted immediate blowback from Russia's U.N. Ambassador who called the decision "discriminatory."

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The first speaker, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, isn't vaccinated and reiterated Thursday that he doesn't plan to get the shot anytime soon.

The U.N. has been wrestling with how to implement — diplomatically — a New York City vaccination requirement for convention centers, which the city said last week would apply to the assembly hall. Shahid told members Tuesday he supported the policy but didn't give details on how it would work.

"We very much hope that this solution is acceptable to all, within the confines of everyone's responsibilities and status," U.N. spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said Friday. 

New York City does not have jurisdiction over the United Nations, however, Mayor Bill de Blasio did encourage the President of the United Nations to follow COVID safety guidelines already in place in the city. 

The coronavirus pandemic forced the assembly's top-level annual meeting to go almost entirely virtual last year.

Leaders seem to have missed the opportunity to interact face to face: More than 100 heads of state and government and over 20 foreign ministers have signed up to speak in person this time. Other nations are participating virtually in the meeting's central event, a speechfest where every country gets a chance to opine on global issues, spotlight domestic ones and use the world stage to court allies or assail foes. 

While many countries' leaders have disclosed their vaccination status, some haven't. Among them is Vietnamese President Nguyen Xuan Phuc, who also is planning to attend the assembly. 

With the Associated Press.