Brazilian health minister tests positive for COVID-19 during U.N. summit

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Marcelo Queiroga, Brazil's health minister and one of several Brazilian diplomats who in New York City for this week's United Nations General Assembly, has tested positive for the coronavirus, he tweeted Tuesday evening. It is not clear if Queiroga is vaccinated against COVID-19, but as his country's public health chief, he has personally administered vaccine doses to others.

"I communicate to everyone that today I tested positive for #Covid19," he wrote. "I will be quarantined in #USA , following all health safety protocols. Meanwhile, the @minsaude will remain firm in the actions to fight the pandemic in Brazil. let's win this!"

Earlier in the day, Queiroga tweeted photos of himself from the United Nations headquarters in Manhattan. In the photos, he appeared to be wearing a face mask.

Agora, na abertura do Debate Geral da 76ª Assembleia Geral da #ONU com o PR @jairbolsonaro, que irá apresentar ao 🌍 todo o trabalho que o @govbr tem feito no enfrentamento à pandemia. O 🇧🇷 está à frente de uma das maiores campanhas de vacinação pública do mundo contra #Covid19!

— Marcelo Queiroga (@mqueiroga2) September 21, 2021

It was not clear whether Queiroga was in the General Assembly Hall on Tuesday to attended the opening day of the General Debate, which was attended by several world leaders, including Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and President Biden.

However, on Monday, Queiroga tweeted photos from a meeting he attended with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Bolsonaro. The health minister appeared to be wearing a face mask for the meeting.

"In New York with PR @jairbolsonaro, we met with the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, @BorisJohnson," he said. "I spoke about the progress of vaccination and pandemic control in . We also cover NHS collaboration c/o #SUS and possibilities for development of the Health Industrial Complex"

Em Nova York com o PR @jairbolsonaro, reunimos com o primeiro-ministro do Reino Unido, @BorisJohnson. Falei do avanço da vacinação e o controle da pandemia no 🇧🇷. Também tratamos sobre colaboração do NHS c/o #SUS e possibilidades de desenvolvimento do Complexo Industrial da Saúde

— Marcelo Queiroga (@mqueiroga2) September 20, 2021

Johnson then traveled to the White House on Tuesday and met with Mr. Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris. The British prime minister was hospitalized with COVID-19 in the spring of 2020, but has since been vaccinated.

Queiroga attended several other events while in New York City. On Monday he tweeted about a meeting he had with investors. And on Sunday, Bolsonaro's Secretary of Government Luiz Ramos tweeted a photo showing several Brazilian officials, including Queiroga, eating pizza outside in New York City.

Jantar de luxo em NYC. @jairbolsonaro @gilsonmachadont @mqueiroga2 @andersongtorres

— Ministro Luiz Ramos (@MinLuizRamos) September 20, 2021

"In the face of what we know about COVID and the lives it has taken, as well New York's vaccination requirements that the Brazilian president defied, it is absolutely dangerous and reckless of any diplomat to expose others to the virus," Andrea Feigl, CEO and founder of the Washington D.C.-based Health Finance Institute, told CBS News. "When we can't trust world leaders and Ministers, real lives are endangered."

The issue of whether all U.N. General Assembly participants should be vaccinated became a point of contention leading up to the event. 

In a letter sent September 9, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio's Office for International Affairs and the city health commissioner informed the president-elect of the General Assembly, Abdulla Shahid, that the gathering would be covered by a local law requiring proof of vaccination for indoor venues like dining and entertainment.

"Indoor entertainment also includes 'convention centers,' and the U.N. General Assembly Hall qualifies as a convention center," the letter said. 

Shahid wrote to all U.N. member states "strongly" supporting the measure and pledging to implement it. But then, in a diplomatic accommodation, Shahid sent a new letter Thursday saying, "I would like to advise delegations that the honour system related to vaccinations … remains in place."

The decision to invoke the "honour system" came after Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia weighed in, saying he was "surprised and disappointed" by the idea of requiring proof of vaccination to enter the General Assembly Hall. Nebenzia called it "discriminatory" and contrary to the 1947 agreement between the U.S. and the U.N. that establishes the world body's international status. 

Bolsonaro, who tested positive for the coronavirus last year and is unvaccinated against the virus, spoke at the summit on Tuesday. In attending the event, he defied New York City's vaccine requirement.

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