Joe Biden’s plans for fighting Covid-19 became a jumbled mess in his final debate face-off with Donald Trump, as he first pledged to stop the virus without a national lockdown, then reiterated that he won’t rule out a shutdown.

“I’m going to shut down the virus, not the country,” the Democrat candidate said. Biden added that it was President Donald Trump’s “ineptitude” that forced the US economy to be largely shut down earlier this year to slow Covid-19’s spread.

But when asked by moderator Kristen Welker if he stands by previous statements that he would consider an economic shutdown if advised to do so by health experts, Biden said, “I’m not ruling out a shutdown.”

Trump countered that “all [Biden] does is talk about shutdowns” and said that the most economically ruinous Covid-19 restrictions have been imposed by Democrat politicians in states such as New York, California, Pennsylvania and North Carolina. “They’re shut down so tight, and they’re dying.”

Biden then praised New York for “turning the curve” downward in Covid-19 infections through shutdown orders. He also slammed Trump for talking about states in terms of whether they are red or blue, before himself adding: “But look at the states that have spikes. They’re red states.”

Trump vowed to avoid any future shutdowns on a national basis, saying businesses and schools need to be kept open. “We have to open our country,” he said. “We’re not going to have a country. You can’t keep this country closed. This is a massive country with a massive economy. You can’t do this. People are losing their jobs. People are committing suicide.”

Trump added: “The cure cannot be worse than the problem itself, and that’s what’s happening. And [Biden’s] going to close down the country.” Earlier, he quipped that “we can’t lock ourselves in a basement like Joe does” — a reference to Biden’s less frequent public appearances during the campaign.

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