With just 35 days until the US election, President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden are barrelling into their crucial first debate, the most pivotal moment so far in a race that has remained stubbornly unchanged in the face of historic tumult.

The president’s handling of the coronavirus was likely to dominate much of the debate. The pandemic’s effects were in plain sight, with the candidates’ lecterns spaced far apart, all of the guests in the small crowd tested and the traditional opening handshake scrapped.

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