Globalisation intensifies global interconnectedness; reorders time and space; and stretches social, political, and economic practices across boundaries. However, globalisation is not a linear process; it takes place in discrete phases of short and concentrated bursts. The COVID-19 pandemic is one such time-space burst, or ‘eruption’. In this paper, we focus on COVID-19 as an ‘emerging epidemic’ from the perspective of citizens in Bobo-Dioulasso, the second-largest city in Burkina Faso. We explore how these citizens experience ruptures of their everyday life due to COVID-19 and how their understandings and responses to the pandemic were shaped in a context of instability and political turbulence. We are inspired by Giddens’s notion of ‘time-space distanciation’, which refers to ‘the condition under which time and space are organized so as to connect presence and absence’. We focus on the temporality of the pandemic by looking at a specific period during the pandemic, during which the government of Burkina Faso introduced a number of restrictions as preventive measures at a time when COVID-19 as a disease was still an absent phenomenon for most people. The pandemic had not (yet) infected large numbers of people in the country and most people did not yet have any experiences of the disease. We argue that the local responses to the pandemic and the various control measures during this period must be understood in the wider context of Burkina Faso’s specific socio-economic, political, and security situations, which are distinctly fragile.