During Democratic debate, Biden and Sanders call for increased coronavirus testing

Democratic U.S. presidential candidates former Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Bernie Sanders debate during the 11th Democratic candidates debate of the 2020 U.S. presidential campaign, held in CNN's Washington studios without an audience because of the global coronavirus pandemic, in Washington, U.S., March 15, 2020. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders called for increased testing in the United States for the rapidly spreading coronavirus and economic relief for Americans suffering as a result of the global pandemic, as they sought to position themselves in Sunday’s Democratic presidential debate as best prepared to lead a nation through a crisis.

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“This is bigger than any one of us. This calls for a national rallying for one another,” the former vice-president said.

Sanders, a Vermont senator, panned U.S. President Donald Trump’s uneven handling of the crisis, urging the president to stop hindering medical professionals by “blabbering with unfactual information that is confusing the American public.”

READ MORE: Trump tests negative for COVID-19 after potential exposures

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Biden and Sanders skipped a handshake, greeting each other instead with an elbow bump, then took their positions at podiums spaced 6 feet apart in keeping with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for limiting the spread of the novel coronavirus. They addressed the nation, and each other, from a television studio in Washington without an in-person audience.

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The debate was the first head-to-head faceoff between Biden and Sanders, who are vying to become the Democratic presidential nominee. After a sluggish start to the primary season, Biden rapidly surged to the front of the field, consolidating support among moderates and moving within striking distance of the Democratic nomination.

READ MORE: Here are some key things to know ahead of the first Sanders, Biden 1-on-1 debate



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