The US President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden began the first presidential debate with heated exchanges over health care, the coronavirus and the future of the Supreme Court.

Trump and Biden arrived in Cleveland, Ohio hoping the debate, moderated by Chris Wallace would energize their bases of support, even as they competed for the slice of undecided voters who could decide the election. 

Fighting for an edge in their bitter campaign, the two leaders  frequently interrupted each other with angry interjections.

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.

With just 35 days to go for the election, and early voting already underway in some states, this was the first of three debates scheduled between the 77 year old Biden and 74 year old  Trump. The next will take place on October 15, followed by October 22.

The Vice Presidential debate between Vice President Mike Pence and Senator Kamala Harris will be held on October 7.

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