South African Breweries (SAB), one of the world's largest brewers, said it may have to destroy 400 million bottles of beer as a result of the country's ban on alcohol sales, part of its lockdown measures to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

South Africa stopped all sales of alcohol when its lockdown came into effect on March 27.

The brewer is seeking special permission from government to move the beer that has been piling up at production facilities to other storage outlets. The transport of alcohol has also been outlawed in South Africa.

SAB said that if it's not able to move the beer, which amounts to about 130 million litres, it will be forced to discard it, resulting in a loss of about NZ$13.14m.

South Africa is one of just a handful of countries that have prohibited alcohol sales as part of its fight against the coronavirus. India and Thailand also had bans on alcohol sales, but recently lifted their restrictions. Panama and Sri Lanka still have bans in place.

Professor Salim Abdool Karim, one of the government's top health advisers in the Covid-19 pandemic, defended the alcohol ban at a briefing with reporters, while many have critiqued the government’s hardline approach. He said alcohol is a significant contributing factor to violent crime and road accidents in South Africa and banning its sale has reduced pressure on medical services.

Representatives of the alcohol industry, however, say the government should allow alcohol to be purchased for consumption at home only.