President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced new tougher coronavirus restrictions, a day after South Africa recorded more than one million Covid-19 cases.
Indoor and outdoor gatherings will be banned, a curfew introduced from 21:00 to 06:00, and alcohol sales prohibited.
Mr Ramaphosa said the country was at an extremely dangerous point in the pandemic and action had to be taken.
Recently authorities confirmed a new, faster-spreading variant of the virus had been detected in South Africa.
Some hospitals and medical centres have reported a huge rise in admissions, putting a heavy strain on resources.
In a televised speech, Mr Ramaphosa said the new 501.V2 variant was now well established in South Africa, and the recent rise in cases was a “cause for great alarm”.
“We have simply let our guard down,” said the president.