Joe Biden emerges from coronavirus lockdown

Presumptive Democratic nominee and his wife, Jill, appeared in public for the first time in two months.

    Democratic US presidential candidate Joe Biden and his wife Jill visit the War Memorial Plaza on Memorial Day in New Castle, Delaware [Carlos Barria/Reuters]
    Democratic US presidential candidate Joe Biden and his wife Jill visit the War Memorial Plaza on Memorial Day in New Castle, Delaware [Carlos Barria/Reuters]

    Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden emerged from his Delaware home on Monday and made his first in-person appearance in more than two months to mark the Memorial Day holiday in the United States by laying a wreath at a veterans' park near his home.

    Since abruptly cancelling a March 10 rally in Cleveland at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, the presumptive Democratic nominee has waged much of his campaign from his home in Wilmington, Delaware. When Biden appeared on Monday, he wore a face mask, in contrast to President Donald Trump, who has refused to cover his face in public.

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    The appearance was a milestone in a presidential campaign that has largely been frozen by the coronavirus outbreak. While the feasibility of traditional events such as rallies and the presidential conventions are in doubt, Biden's emergence suggests he will not spend the nearly five months that remain until the election entirely at home.

    The coronavirus has upended virtually all aspects of American life and changed the terms of the election. Trump's argument that he deserves another term in office because of the strong economy has evaporated as unemployment rises to levels not seen since the Great Depression in the 1930s.

    Biden has adjusted to the coronavirus era by building a television studio in his home, which he has used to make appearances on news programmes, late-night shows and virtual campaign events. Some of those efforts have been marred by technical glitches and other awkward moments.

    Biden's advisers say they plan to return to normal campaign activities at some point, including travel to battleground states But they are in no hurry, preferring to defer to the advice of health experts and authorities' stay-at-home and social distancing recommendations.

    At 77, Biden is among the nation's senior population thought to be especially vulnerable to the effects of the coronavirus - though so is Trump, who turns 74 next month.

    "We will never make any choices that put our staff or voters in harm's way," Biden campaign manager Jen O'Malley Dillon said recently, adding that the campaign would resume more traditional activities "when safety allows, and we will not do that a day sooner".

    Trump has not resumed the large rallies that were the hallmark of his 2016 campaign and presidency but has begun travelling outside Washington in recent weeks. He visited a facility producing face masks in Arizona and a Ford plant in Michigan that has been converted to produce medical and protective equipment.

    Trump even played golf at his club in Virginia on the weekend, hoping that others will follow his lead and return to some semblance of normal life and gradually help revive an economy in free fall.

    It was the president's first trip to one of his money-making properties since March 8, when he visited his private golf club in West Palm Beach. The World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a pandemic on March 11, and Trump followed with the national emergency declaration two days later.

    Trump was spending Memorial Day visiting Arlington National Cemetery and the Fort McHenry national monument in Baltimore, to be followed by a trip to Florida's coast on Wednesday to watch to US astronauts blast into orbit.

    SOURCE: News agencies