President of the 74th session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) Tijjani Muhammad-Bande said that some 100 diplomats were likely to attend the General Debate in September due to the uncertainties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We want to have the General Debate as scheduled…(but) the number of people that can be allowed into the hall (General Assembly Hall) maybe a hundred or so, but not a whole lot of people coming to the General Assembly,” Muhammad-Bande said at a press briefing on Monday.
He said that the UN is currently discussing the mechanics of the General Debate, which is scheduled for September 22 to 30, and expects to decide on how the high-level event will be held in the next two weeks, reports Xinhua news agency.
But Muhammad-Bande stressed that “in terms of the broad direction, we are not going to have heads of state and government come to New York” due to a lot of uncertainties including the number of hotels in the city and medical services, as world leaders do not travel as “simple individuals”.
The UN is considering to shift to video messages by the heads of state and government for the high-level session, as opposed to in-person presentations.
As New York City began the first phase of reopening on Monday, the UN is also gearing up for its return to normalcy in three phases.
The UN headquarters, which has remained largely closed since mid-March due to the pandemic, is considering to reopen with new workplace measures being put in place for staff, diplomats and journalists that will include maximum two-person occupancy in elevators and wearing masks in public areas.
The 75th session of the UNGA will open on September 15.
The first day of the high-level General Debate will be on September 22.
A total of 143 heads of state and government spoke at the General Debate of the 74th session of the UNGA last year.
This year coincides with the 75th anniversary of the founding of the world body, which is also considering ways of celebration.