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LATIN AMERICA | 21-09-2021 13:17

Bolsonaro tells United Nations he rejects vaccine passports

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro told the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday that his government was against health passports but backed drives to vaccinate against Covid-19.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro told the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday that his government was against health passports but backed drives to vaccinate against Covid-19.

"We support the vaccination efforts," said Bolsonaro, widely criticized for his handling of the pandemic in Brazil where the coronavirus has killed more than 590,000 people.

"However, my administration has not supported a vaccine or health passport or any other vaccine-related obligation," he said in New York.

Bolsonaro was the first world leader to speak at the high-level meet – tradition dictates that Brazil goes first – after UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres opened the debate with an address of his own.

Bolsonaro has said he would be the "last Brazilian" to get vaccinated but told delegates that Brazil's inoculation programme was moving swiftly.

He reported that his government had distributed more than 260 million doses, with more than 140 million Brazilians – almost 90 percent of the adult population – having received at least a first dose.

Bolsonaro added that 80 percent of Brazil's indigenous population is fully vaccinated.

"By November this year, all citizens who have chosen to be vaccinated in Brazil will be duly covered," he said.

The far-right leader has sparked controversy by advocating unproven treatments against Covid-19, which he contracted last year.

"Since the pandemic started we have supported doctor's professional autonomy in the quest for early treatment measures in line with recommendations issued by the Brazilian Federal Council of Medicine," he told delegates.

Bolsonaro defied guidance to only attend the assembly if vaccinated.

He does not meet New York's vaccine mandate for many indoor activities, including eating, and ate a slice of pizza outdoors for his dinner on Sunday. 

"Luxury dinner in New York," tweeted Brazil's secretariat minister Luiz Eduardo Ramos alongside a photo of Bolsonaro enjoying a slice outside with several members of his delegation.

Tourism minister Gilson Machado also posted a photo of Bolsonaro with slice in hand, writing on Instagram that it was pizza and Coca-Cola for dinner.

"Bolsonaro likes to play humility... but it is not a question of taste," said Brazilian columnist Reinaldo Azevedo, pointing out New York's vaccine requirements.

The city began enforcing a vaccine mandate last week, requiring proof of at least one shot for many indoor activities, including dining, entertainment venues and gyms.

The local government wrote to the president of the United National General Assembly stressing that the debate hall for this week's high-level meeting was a convention centre, meaning all delegates must be vaccinated.

The UNGA president, Abdulla Shahid, initially backed the requirement but then backtracked, ruling that entry to the UN headquarters for the debate will be run on an "honour system," with no proof of vaccination required.

As is tradition, Brazil's president is due to give the first speech at the session on Tuesday.

Bolsonaro, heavily criticized for his handling of the pandemic, has said that he would be the "last Brazilian" to receive a Covid-19 vaccine, 222 million doses of which have already been administered in his country.

He arrived in New York City on Sunday evening, with Brazilian media reporting that he had to use the back door to enter his hotel to avoid demonstrators shouting "Get out Bolsonaro!" at the main entrance.

– AFP

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