AS the number of new Covid-19 infections continues to rise, fears are growing that harsher lockdown restrictions will be put in place again.

The Southern African Alcohol Policy Alliance (SAAPA) in Mzansi has been calling for restrictions on alcohol advertising and sales to help slow the spread.

The association said in a statement: “We have called on the government to impose considered restrictions now to decrease harmful drinking and the associated flouting of Covid-19 protocols. While, as an organisation, we have never been unsympathetic towards job losses in industries that rely on alcohol sales, our priority is to advocate for public health, safety and well-being.”

The association wrote that while livelihoods were important, saving lives was more important.

“Acting now to restrict hours of trading and social gatherings fuelled by alcohol consumption, where social distancing is not adhered to and masks are not worn, will make a major difference and save lives,” the statement read.

But the South African Liquor Brand Owners Association (SALBA) said restricting advertising and other alcohol policy interventions were irrelevant to the national response.

“The statement demonstrates SAAPA’s lack of regard for the state of the country’s economy, growing unemployment and collapse of businesses partly as a result of the three bans on alcohol sales over the past year,” the association said in a statement.

SALBA chairman Sibani Mngadi said it was disturbing that SAAPA, which had made no contribution to the national Covid-19 response, was calling for more restrictions on alcohol sales.

He called on SAAPA to demonstrate the organisation’s contribution to the Covid-19 response or what it had done to encourage responsible alcohol consumption.

Lucky Ntimande of the Liquor Association of South Africa said there was no reason to ban alcohol again.

He said vaccination was the best way to deal with the pandemic.