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A handshake and a dearth of masks at Pence's Republican convention speech

A handshake and a dearth of masks at Pence's Republican convention speech

U.S. President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence give thumbs up to the delegates after both addressing the first day of the 2020 Republican National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, U.S., August 24, 2020. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

BALTIMORE: When US Vice President Mike Pence and President Donald Trump greeted supporters at an outdoor venue on Wednesday (Aug 27) night for the Republican National Convention, there were few masks in sight and Pence exchanged at least one handshake.

The scene provided a stark contrast to last week's nearly all-virtual Democratic convention, when Joe Biden and Kamala Harris scrapped plans to travel to Wisconsin because of the coronavirus and instead delivered speeches in a mostly empty event center.

Biden and Harris wore masks and kept a distance from the crowd they joined in watching outdoor fireworks in Delaware at the end of their convention.

READ: Pence warns US voters: 'You won't be safe' under Joe Biden

While the Democratic candidates have eschewed large crowds and donned masks in public, Trump took months to embrace mask-wearing as an effective way to stop the spread of the virus, which has killed more than 179,000 people in the United States.

On Wednesday night, few people who had gathered for Pence's convention speech at the Fort McHenry National Monument in Baltimore, Maryland, wore masks. Neither did Trump, his wife Melania, or Pence and his wife Karen, when they greeted well-wishers at the event's conclusion.

READ: US health agency says testing not needed for some exposed to COVID-19, sparking outcry

Members of the audience told reporters on Wednesday night they had not been tested for the infection before attending. Even so, Pence shook hands with one woman.

Medical professionals at the White House and around the country have encouraged Americans to maintain a social distance, wear masks and wash their hands regularly to thwart COVID-19.

Trump and Pence are tested regularly for the coronavirus, as are staff and journalists who interact with them at the White House.

READ: Needing election boost, Trump prepares to dominate party convention

READ: Battered by Democrats, Trump fires back against 'total anarchy, madness and chaos'

Both men have sought to paint an optimistic picture about the pandemic despite its deadly toll. Trump, 74, has criticized Biden, 77, for campaigning from his home in Delaware rather than venturing out regularly to in-person events around the country.

Trump, who is trailing the former vice president in opinion polls ahead of the Nov 3 election, is expected to travel extensively in the coming weeks.

Harris on Wednesday criticised the Republican president for politicising the pandemic.

“The idea that Trump would make th​​​​​​​is a partisan issue is outrageous. It's unbelievable, right? You wear a mask if you're a Democrat, you don’t wear a mask if you’re a Republican?" she said at a fundraising event.

A large crowd is expected to attend Trump's convention speech from the White House South Lawn on Thursday night.

Source: Reuters/ga

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