President Ramaphosa in a televised address to the nation explained that "the next few days are crucial" in curbing the spread of coronavirus.
He added that the lockdown will begin at midnight Thursday while calling on the country to “urgently and dramatically” escalate its response.
"Immediate, swift and extraordinary action is required if we are to avoid human costs of this virus," adding that if the nation did not act swiftly, it could face "a human catastrophe of enormous proportions."
"Those countries that have acted swiftly and dramatically have been far more effective in controlling the spread of the disease," he said.
South Africa has recorded 402 cases in the country. This is a six-fold increase from just eight days ago.
Mr Ramaphosa said:
- Individuals will not be allowed to leave their homes except under strictly controlled circumstances
- All shops and businesses will be closed except those providing essential services
- Temporary shelters will be set up for the homeless
- Medical and security personnel will be exempt from the lockdown
"We must do everything within our means to reduce the overall number of infections and to delay the spread of infection over a longer period," the president added.