Addressing South Africa on the coronavirus this evening, president Ramaphosa announced that a nationwide lockdown will be in place from midnight on 26 March 2020.
Individuals will only be allowed to leave their homes under strict circumstances.
The lockdown will last for 21 days until midnight on Thursday 16 April.
The president declared that the lockdown is necessary to stop the spread of the virus.
Exemptions to the lock down include health workers in the public and private sectors, emergency personnel, those in security services – such as the police, traffic officers, military medical personnel, soldiers – and other persons necessary for our response to the pandemic.
A full list of the categories of businesses that should remain open will be published.
People will be able to leave their homes to, for example, seek medical care, buy food and collect social grants.
The president described the response of most South Africans to the virus up to now as remarkable and every sector of society has come on board to help curb the pandemic.
According to the president, the most effective way to slow the pandemic is to follow good personal hygiene habits.
The number of cases currently stands at 402.
An immediate, swift and extraordinary response is required to delay the spread of the infection.
The president announced that emergency water supplies are being provided to informal settlements and rural areas and screening and testing will be expanded.
Sites are also being identified for quarantine and self-isolation for people who cannot self-isolate at home.
All shops and businesses will be closed, except for pharmacies, laboratories, banks, essential financial and payment services, including the JSE, supermarkets, petrol stations and health care providers.
South African citizens and residents arriving from high-risk countries will automatically be placed under quarantine for 14 days.
People from high risk countries that arrived in the country after 9 March will be confined to hotels for a 14-day period.
A Solidarity Fund is to be set up with government committing R150 million in seed capital.
The president called for contributions to the fund to fight the spread of the virus, care for the ill and assist those with disrupted lives.
A safety net for persons in informal sector is to be put in place.
Government was also in consultation on a proposal for a special dispensation for companies that are in distress due to COVID-19.
Through this proposal, employees will receive wage payment through the Temporary Employee Relief Scheme, which will enable companies to pay employees directly during this period and avoid retrenchment.
A tax subsidy of up to R500 per month for the next four months will also be provided for private sector employees earning below R6,500 under the Employment Tax Incentive.
Government was also looking at the temporary reduction of employer and employee contributions to the Unemployment Insurance Fund and employer contributions to the Skill Development Fund.