A global condom shortage is looming as the Lockdown shutters factories and disrupts supply chains, the world’s top maker of the contraceptives said, with the United Nations warning of “devastating” consequences.
Over half of humanity has been confined to their homes as the highly contagious virus marches round the planet, while governments worldwide have ordered the closure of businesses deemed non-essential.
Malaysia – one of the world’s top rubber producers and a major source of condoms – imposed a nationwide lockdown last month as infections surged to the highest level in Southeast Asia.
But restrictions on the operations of Malaysian contraceptive giant Karex, which makes one in every five condoms globally, mean the firm expects to produce 200 million fewer condoms than usual from mid-March to mid-April.
With other producers around the world likely facing disruption and difficulties in getting condoms to market due to transport problems, supplies of contraceptives will be hit hard, warned Karex chief executive Goh Miah Kiat.
“The world will definitely see a condom shortage,” said Goh.
“It’s challenging, but we are trying our best right now to do whatever we can. It is definitely a major concern – condom is an essential medical device.
“While we are fighting, there are also other serious issues that we need to look at,” he said, adding he was particularly worried about supplies of condoms to developing countries.
UN sounds alarm
Karex, which supplies condoms to many companies as well as governments and for distribution by aid programmes, had to close its three Malaysian factories for a period at the start of the country’s lockdown, which is due to last until April 14.
The company has since been allowed to resume operations but with only 50 percent of its usual workforce, and Goh wants permission to ramp up production.
“Border closings and other restrictive measures are affecting transportation and production in a number of countries and regions,” said a UN Population Fund spokesperson, adding they were taking steps such as adding extra suppliers to support urgent needs.