Omicron forces FM Qureshi to put off US visit

Published January 7, 2022
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi briefs the media at the Foreign Office on Monday. — PID
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi briefs the media at the Foreign Office on Monday. — PID

WASHINGTON: Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi planned to visit New York and Washington next week, but the Omicron virus forced him to postpone the trip, official sources in the US capital told Dawn.

Sources in New York said that the virus has also affected President UN General Assembly (UNGA) Abdulla Shahid and senior members of the UN Secretary General’s staff, including his spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric.

This week, the United States registered more than a million Omicron cases, causing school closures and reinforced social-distancing and stirring talks of yet another shutdown.

Mr. Qureshi was expected in New York on Jan. 13 to attend a meeting of the Group of 77, scheduled to start on Jan. 14. He also planned to visit Washington for consultations with senior US officials and lawmakers.

In a letter to UN missions in New York, UNGA President Abdullah Shahid wrote that “the sudden spike in the number of COVID-19 cases around the world and in New York city” forced him to postpone a high-level thematic debate scheduled on Jan. 13, a day before the G-77 meeting. The G-77 meeting has also been postponed. Mr Shahid wrote that he took this decision to “mitigate the risk of spreading the virus.”

In another letter to UN missions, Chef de Cabinet to the Secretary-General Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti informed them that the world body was allowing its employees in New York to work remotely.

“This decision was made as a precautionary measure based on a surge of positive COVID-19 cases both in New York City and amongst United Nations personnel,” she wrote. “Of even more concern is a trend (of) essential UN workers testing positive, which may soon impact our ability to support the work of member states on our premises.”

Published in Dawn, January 7th, 2022

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