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US elections: What happens if second Trump - Biden debate is cancelled?

After president Donald Trump's coronavirus diagnosis, there are now major doubts about whether the second presidential debate will go ahead.

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US elections: What happens if second Trump - Biden debate is cancelled?
Sarah Silbiger GTRES

Just days after the first presidential debate in Cleveland earlier this week, it was confirmed that President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump had tested positive for coronavirus on Friday.

Trump was admitted to Walter Reed hospital on Friday evening after aides said the president had exhibited “mild symptoms”, while the first lady has remained in quarantine at the White House.

Trump was "fatigued but in good spirits", according to his doctor, who, in a later update, said the president was doing very well.

The low-down on the final presidential debate.

Remaining presidential debates could be cancelled

Trump’s coronavirus diagnosis has thrown his election campaign into disarray with just one month to go until the 3 November ballot. And it is now uncertain if the second presidential debate, a town hall format set for Miami on 15 October, would go ahead.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that anyone who tests positive for Covid-19 should quarantine for 10 days after symptoms first appear and until fever symptoms have been gone for at least 24 hours.

Democratic presidential nominee and former Vice President Joe Biden speaks briefly with journalists before traveling to Grand Rapids, Michigan, at New Castle County Airport October 2, 2020 in New Castle, Delaware. Biden said he tested negative twice Friday for the coronavirus after it was reported that U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump tested positive for COVID-19.

Joe Biden Travels To Michigan To Campaign For PresidentDemocratic presidential nominee and former Vice President Joe Biden speaks briefly with journalists before traveling to Grand Rapids, Michigan, at New Castle County Airport October 2, 2020 in New Castle, Delaware. Biden said he tested negative twice Friday for the coronavirus after it was reported that U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump tested positive for COVID-19.

This means that Trump could follow the CDC’s protocols and still make the debate on 15 October. But several reports say it is unlikely the Miami debate will go ahead. If so, it is highly unlikely that the second debate would be re-scheduled, and there are also major doubts about the third debate, scheduled for 23 October, proceeding as planned.

Calls had been made for debates to be cancelled

Even before Trump’s coronavirus diagnosis, there had been calls for the remaining debates to be cancelled after the first head-to-head between the president and his Democratic rival Joe Biden was branded a disgrace, as the two candidates bickered and traded insults in a manner that was deemed unfitting of the event.

Trump’s constant interruptions of Biden prompted the commission that oversees the debates to change the format to ensure the remaining two encounters were more orderly.

But Trump’s team has already stated that they were against the format changes. And with polls indicating that the debates were unlikely to sway voters anyway, it is possible they will move to have the final two debates cancelled.