Kamala Harris began the first and only vice-presidential debate of the 2020 election by attacking the Trump administration and her opponent Mike Pence for its coronavirus response.

“The American people have witnessed what is the greatest failure of any presidential administration in the history of our country,” she said, in her opening remarks in Salt Lake City, Utah.

“Here are the facts: 210,000 dead people in our country in just the last several months, over 7 million people who have contracted this disease, one in five businesses closed, frontline workers who have been treated like sacrificial workers.”

Turning at times to the current vice president, she said that Americans had not been given the full picture by the White House.

“On January 28, the vice president and the president were informed about the nature of this pandemic. They were informed that it was lethal in consequence, that it is airborne, that it will affect young people and that it would be contracted because it was airborne.”

“They knew what was happening and they didn’t tell you,” said Ms Harris, who is Joe Biden’s running mate on the Democratic ticket.

She added: “Can you imagine if you knew on January 28th as opposed to March 13th what they knew, what you might have done to prepare? They knew and they covered it up.”

Mr Pence responded that Donald Trump’s decision to close borders to China “bought us invaluable time” to coordinate the country’s response to the pandemic.

That move, however, proved to be ineffective in stopping the spread of the virus. Infected passengers by then were already flying in from across Europe.

Mr Trump and several of his inner circle are currently infected with the virus. Some 34 White House staffers and people connected to them have also contracted the virus.