Coronavirus: 'Post-apocalyptic future' as Los Angeles goes quiet

20 March 2020, 23:22 | Updated: 21 March 2020, 11:23

On many days in Los Angeles you can turn a corner and stumble upon a scene from a post-apocalyptic future.

But suddenly the waste land isn't the stuff of the movies anymore.

The deserted streets and shuttered businesses are signs of very real life.

The people of America's second-biggest city, and the country's most populous state, have taken notice of the order to stay at home to help stop the spread of coronavirus.

A few are out jogging, some walk their dogs, essential services continue - things all permitted under the order - but the usually bustling neighbourhoods are like ghost towns.

And it is heartening that the message is being taken seriously.

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As he opened up his food truck for the day's business in Santa Monica, Hassam Jahrny said the lockdown was the only answer if the US was to avoid the fate of Italy and Iran.

No one expressed anything but support for the order.

The governor of California, Gavin Newsom, has refused to put a time-frame on the order, wary of raising expectations, but he says he cannot see it lasting for "many, many months".

It means a period of adjustment for society and its economy and anxiety and uncertainty for millions.

Hours after California's stay-at-home order took effect, New York state, Illinois and Connecticut announced similar measures, a reality check sweeping across the nation.

The surge in cases in recent days certainly reflects the rush of results from tests that had been waiting to be processed but Americans are braced for more dramatic numbers.

That jolt is why scenes that were unimaginable a week ago are now the norm. At rush hour on Friday, the Interstate 405, the notorious clogged artery that runs north-south through Los Angeles was a free-flowing breeze of a drive.

Mr Newsom spelled out in some detail the data guiding his decision, the number of hospital beds that might be needed and where the shortfall could be found. He made no attempt to sugar coat the reality.

In return for his honesty and straight talking, he has demanded the public step up.

The signs are that they are doing just that and America holding its breath to see when and if it will make a difference.