New York Mayor Bill de Blasio on Monday announced a blanket COVID-19 vaccine mandate for the private sector in the United States' biggest city, starting from late December.
The order goes further than a nationwide mandate set by President Joe Biden for companies with more than 100 employees to vaccinate workers by January 4 that has been stalled by court suspensions.
"As of today we are going to announce a first-in-the-nation measure — our health commissioner will announce a vaccine mandate for private sector employers across the board," de Blasio said on MSNBC, adding that it would take effect December 27.
Vaccine mandates have a long history in the US but have generally been issued by cities or states.
De Blasio cited the emergence of the Covid-19 Omicron variant, cold winter weather and holiday gatherings as "additional challenges" to tackling the pandemic in New York, which was hard hit by the virus in 2020, with at least 34,000 deaths.
Omicron cases have been confirmed in at least 15 US states since it was first reported in late November, including several in New York, with de Blasio saying he was "very concerned."
"We in New York City have decided to use a pre-emptive strike to really do something bold to stop the further growth of Covid and the dangers it's causing to all of us," he said.
Apart from the mandate, which would cover some 184,000 business and companies, he said there will be other measures to "focus on maximizing vaccination quickly so we can get ahead of Omicron and all the other challenges we are facing right now with Covid."