UN Security Council cuts schedule over coronavirus

The UN Security Council usually meets in this room at the world body's headquarters in New York, but members met via videoconference because of the coronavirus crisis (AFP Photo/Johannes EISELE)

United Nations (United States) (AFP) - The UN Security Council will scale back its schedule for March as a precaution against the new-coronavirus pandemic, China said on Wednesday.

China, which holds the presidency of the Security Council during March and is also the epicenter of the virus, wants to ensure "we will be in a better position to protect ourselves," said its ambassador, Zhang Jun.

While no Security Council sessions will be canceled, China has advised a "scaling down of the meetings" including reducing delegation sizes, Zhang told reporters.

Informal consultations within the powerful 15-member body may also be shifted to a larger room so "that we have more space and less people," he said.

The United Nations has pushed back major gatherings outside of the Security Council. On Wednesday it indefinitely delayed a March 23-April 3 meeting on marine biodiversity as well as an April 13-24 forum on indigenous issues.

It had already postponed a March annual meeting on the status of women that would have brought 12,000 people to New York.

A UN official, speaking anonymously, said the organization should also postpone the five-year review conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), which is scheduled for April 27-May 22.

No cases of COVID-19 have been reported within the 3,000-strong UN Secretariat, said the world body's spokesman, Stephane Dujarric.

The United Nations has halted tours and much of the staff have been asked to work remotely, Dujarric said.