Kazakhstan will on Sunday become the first nation in the world to re-impose a country-wide lockdown after its easing in mid-May of largely successful measures to counter coronavirus sparked a surge in infections.
The central Asian country, which borders Russia in the north-west and China in the east, appeared to have contained the disease after a two-month lockdown with just a few thousand confirmed Covid-19 cases.
But Kazakhstan, home to 18 million, embraced its re-discovered freedoms with gusto. Family-oriented Kazakhs went back and forth to see relatives, and police would routinely bust wedding parties of up to 100 people as large gatherings were still banned. Cafes and gyms were busy again, and borders were opened to ease travel.
Now it is faced with a total of 44,000 confirmed cases. Its hospitals – unlike previously – are over-stretched. Kazakhstan is a cautionary tale for all others exiting lockdown. Travel will be limited again, working hours of public transport cut down, non-essential businesses closed, and two cities in Kazakhstan’s east will be closed.