Condoms being tested at Malaysia's Karex condom factory in Pontian, Johor. - Reuters
Zenith Bank BetaLife
Zenith Bank BetaLife
Zenith Bank BetaLife
Zenith Bank BetaLife

The coronavirus pandemic may lead to a global shortage of Condom, the world’s largest producer of condoms, Karex Bhd, has said.

The Malaysia based company said it has not produced a single condom from its three Malaysian factories for more than a week.

This is due to a lockdown imposed by the government to halt the spread of Covid-19 virus, Bloomberg has reported.

Condom is the most widely used contraceptives in the world.

Karex Bhd makes one in every five condoms globally. It produces for brands like Durex as well as its own line of specialty condoms such as Durian-flavored ones.

It churns out more than 5 billion condoms a year and exports them to more than 140 countries. That has become more challenging as governments shut borders and airlines cancel flights.

The other major condom-producing countries are China, where the coronavirus originated and led to widespread factory shutdowns, and India and Thailand, which are seeing infections spiking now.

Sadly, Malaysia is one of the hardest-hit countries in southeast Asia. As of Monday morning, more than 2,400 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed, with 35 deaths.

The lockdown in the country is due to remain in place at least until April 14.

The Chief Executive of the group, Goh Miah Kiat, warned of a global shortage as supply falls by almost 50 per cent while its stockpile is set to last for just another two months.

He said the company only restarted its factories on Friday after a week-long closure, working with just half of its workforce.

“It will take time to jumpstart factories and we will struggle to keep up with demand at half capacity,” Mr Kiat said.

“We are going to see a global shortage of condoms everywhere, which is going to be scary.

“My concern is that for a lot of humanitarian programs deep down in Africa, the shortage will not just be two weeks or a month. That shortage can run into months,” he said.

Mr Kiat also said demand is growing at “double digits” as governments around the world issue stay-at-home notices and many people abstain from having children due to the uncertain future.

He warned of a possible price hike in the purchase of condoms.

“Condoms could also get much more expensive. We are still paying all our worker’s full salaries but workers only come in half the time so generally, there will be a cost increase,” he said.

In an interview, the President of Association for Reproductive and Family Health (ARFH), Oladapo Ladipo, said the pandemic will have a negative impact on reproductive health.

“There is no doubt this will have a negative impact on the health sector and on the economy itself. It is a health emergency and an economic emergency.

“Virtually, some countries are locked down now. The economy is down, shares are down and productivity is reduced. And, since we have to import virtually most of our drugs, there may be shortages in the not too distant future. What is important is to remain healthy and to make sure you do not need any of these medications,” he said.

He, however, said people will have to revert to the natural method of family planning for the period of the pandemic.

“Prevention is always better than cure. In terms of our reproductive health, there are guidelines on how to protect oneself and how to remain safe.

“For example, avoid multiple and sexual partners, avoid indiscriminate and unacceptable behaviors.

“In terms of family planning products, you have to revert back to the natural method if there are shortages of commodities for family planning. But, it is a difficult situation we are in, you cannot even say categorically what the final outcome will be,” he said.

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