US election 2020: Pence and Harris to debate behind plexiglass

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Democratic Senator Kamala Harris (L) and US Vice-President Mike PenceImage source, Reuters
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Democratic Senator Kamala Harris and US Vice-President Mike Pence

US Vice-President Mike Pence and his Democratic challenger Kamala Harris will be separated by plexiglass during their head-to-head debate this week.

The candidates will also be seated at least 12ft (3.6m) apart for Wednesday's event in Salt Lake City, Utah, to help limit the risk of Covid transmission.

It comes after President Donald Trump and several others close to him tested positive for coronavirus.

Both vice-presidential candidates have recently tested negative.

Information about the event released by the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) on Monday said "plexiglass will be used as part of the CPD's overall approach to health and safety".

The request was put forward by Ms Harris' team, according to US media reports.

In response to the announcement, Mr Pence's spokeswoman, Katie Miller, said: "If Senator Harris wants to use a fortress around herself, have at it."

Ms Harris's press secretary, Sabrina Singh, later tweeted that it was "interesting that Katie Miller mocks our wanting a plexiglass barrier on the debate stage", adding that Mr Pence was "supposedly in charge of the Covid-19 task force and should be advocating for this too".

It will not be the first time that plexiglass will have made an appearance at a debate. At the weekend, Democratic Senate candidate in South Carolina Jaime Harrison brought his own plexiglass screen to debate Republican rival Lindsey Graham.

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Other measures outlined by the CPD include a requirement for audience members to undergo Covid tests and to wear masks throughout the debate. Anyone refusing to wear a mask would be "escorted out", the commission added.

Last Tuesday, Mr Trump and his challenger Joe Biden fiercely clashed over 90 minutes in one of the most chaotic and bitter White House debates in US history.

The local rules in Cleveland, Ohio, required everyone in the room to wear masks - but of the president's family members present, only US First Lady Melania Trump donned a face covering during the debate.

Ivanka, Donald Trump Jr, Eric and Tiffany Trump were all seen with their masks off for much of the evening.

The second presidential debate is currently scheduled to take place on 15 October, with the third due to take place on 22 October.

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"Shut up, man" and other insults and interruptions