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The city has taken significant steps to keep people at home and on Tuesday the lack of buzz on its streets was apparent

It was romantic, in a post-apocalyptic sort of way.

A young couple, walking arm-in-arm in downtown Manhattan, huddled under their shared umbrella. Their eyes seemed bright, filled with affection and, unlike the bottom half of their faces, unobscured by pale blue surgical masks.

They were among those meandering this part of New York City despite widespread anxiety over coronavirus. While neighborhoods were not completely dead, many shops were closed and there was a marked decline in foot traffic.

As coronavirus cases continue to spike in New York and across the US, individuals, authorities, and institutions are all taking steps to contain this outbreak. New Yorks court system has slowed to a crawl. Public schools here are shuttered. The city has ordered its world famous restaurants and bars theaters closed, except for takeout. Broadway shows have gone dark.

In Chinatown, coronavirus-spurred quietude was most apparent with empty and shuttered eateries. Many bakeries, usually abuzz with customers buying buns and coffee, were near-empty.

Under these dire circumstances selections may be limited, advised one bakerys sign. It was printed on paper and affixed to the window. Other signs posted on doors advised customers of temporary and indefinite closures. Through windows, chairs were seen stacked atop tables. Salespersons in some of the neighborhoods eyeglass and jewelry stores stood idle, waiting for customers.

Slightly north, a sign in a still-open Little Italy bakery advised clients: For Your Safety + Ours, No More Than 4 People At a Time.

Handbags and haute couture sat unsold at closed boutiques as one neared the chic Soho neighborhood, though some signs advised prospective customers that they could make shopping appointments.

The Oculus mall in downtown Manhattan was quiet. Photograph: Eduardo Muoz/Reuters

On Broadway, walking Downtown from Houston Street, the sidewalks were near-empty. Victorias Secret, normally swarmed with patrons picking over buy-three, get-three unmentionables, was locked. The Prada outlet once popularized by Sex In the City, was newly silent.

Further south, near city hall, a man ambled down the sidewalk, toting a cylindrical container of sanitizing wipes. One white disinfectant sheet was sticking out.

As much as I like my dentist, I dont trust the seat was being fully cleaned, said the man, Mark Oldman, who had a dental appointment. You have to bring your own.

The hottest accessory on the streets of New York is no longer an iPhone, he joked.

Did the city seem different to him, with all the closings?

It feels like Thanksgiving, he said of the US holiday, during which many New York City residents leave town. Not completely dead, it just has this kind of ghost-town, tumbleweed quality.

Its not as apocalyptic as the TV news would suggest, he continued. I just saw a woman walk into Zara and I thought, thats interesting, shopping during the plague.

There were other glimpses of cautious normalcy.

Two construction workers conversed while walking towards Wall Street. One had a N-95 respirator mask on his face, and it somehow remained in place though the straps were down. His companion was not wearing a mask, and he spat on the ground as they walked.

Near the Civic Center, a young woman in a surgical mask exited a college building. She sat on a bench and pulled down her mask, so it rested below her chin. Then, she lit a cigarette. She smoked , though it entails repeated hand-mouth contact.

Back near Chinatown, a queue had formed outside the city marriage bureau. Because of social distancing initiatives, only 50 people were permitted inside at a time, slowing down the licensing process.

Rei Hayashi and Ben Shaul, who have been together eight years, were among those waiting. The license is just paperwork, Hayashi and Shaul said, but they had the time to come down and decided to get it.

Hayashi, who has legal permanent residency, was concerned about potential border closures.

Its just checking off boxes, Shaul said.

Federica Bressan, a Fulbright Scholar who plans on returning to her hometown of Gorizia, Italy on Sunday. She is heartbroken to leave New York City and while she doesnt fear coronavirus here per se, Its the uncertainty. I dont know whats going to happen.

No matter what happens, I think being at home is always better.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/18/new-york-coronavirus-streets