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Republicans due to kick off Donald Trump re-election bid

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In this July 19, 2016 file photo, the shadow of delegates are seen on the convention floor during the second day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.
In this July 19, 2016 file photo, the shadow of delegates are seen on the convention floor during the second day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.   -   Copyright  John Locher/AP Photos
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Donald Trump will be nominated as the Republican candidate for the 2020 US presidential election at the party’s convention curtain-raiser in Charlotte, North Carolina, a scaled-down event due to the coronavirus pandemic that is raging across the country.

Despite the risk of COVID-19, Republicans are to hold an in-person "roll call", meaning that delegates will physically gather at the Charlotte Convention Centre to cast their ballots. By contrast, Democratic delegates voted last week via video link to avoid the spread of infection.

But the event is far more low-key than in previous years, when it would bring thousands of politicians, pollsters, lobbyists, business people and ordinary voters together for speeches, events and parties.

Ordinarily, more than 2,500 delegates would attend, whereas due to the pandemic the Republicans have invited just 336, six from each of America’s 50 states. AP reported on Monday that a doctor had been tasked with drawing up a 42-page health and safety plan for the event.

Meanwhile, all attendees have been asked to get tested for COVID-19 prior to arriving in Virginia, track any symptoms once they are there, wear masks and keep at least six feet away from others. But despite the measures, Trump has said he wants an optimistic convention.

“I think we’re going to see something that is going to be very uplifting and positive. That’s what I’d like it to be," he said in an interview that aired on Sunday on Fox News.

After the kickoff in Charlottesville, the event will move to the environs of the White House, with First Lady Melania Trump expected to speak on Tuesday and Mike Pence on Wednesday.

Trump is expected to give his speech on Wednesday and has controversially chosen to do it from the White House in front of an audience of supporters. The move defies the convention on sitting presidents not using the White House for personal campaigning.

He had initially wanted a convention free from coronavirus restrictions such as social distancing and mask-wearing, choosing a massive venue in Jacksonville, Florida, but the president reluctantly conceded last month that “it was not the right time” for a large event.

Trump heads into the 2020 election with the US economy reeling from the coronavirus pandemic, with almost six million cases of the virus and 177,000 deaths. His response to the crisis has seen him slump in the polls against Democratic candidate Joe Biden.

Biden and the Democrats held a tightly-restricted but widely-praised convention last week, with the 77-year-old candidate giving his speech to a near-empty room in Wisconsin. His choice of Senator Kamala Harris as running mate has also given Biden momentum going into November.