Malaysian condom production halted for COVID-19; devastating repercussions possible

The coronavirus pandemic has brought up an unexpected global condom shortage – the United Nations (UN) is warning of “devastating” consequences, and with producers likely facing disruption/difficulties in getting condoms to market due to transport problems, supplies of the contraceptives will be hit hard, warned Chief Executive Goh Miah Kiat of Malaysian contraceptive giant Karex.

While the coronavirus death toll continues climbing, much of humanity is confined to their homes and factories/businesses supplying non-essential products shuttered, worldwide. After Malaysia imposed a nationwide lockdown in March, Karex – which makes one in every five condoms globally – expects to produce 200 million fewer condoms than usual from mid-March to mid-April, when the lockdown is due to end.

Goh claims that the world “will definitely see a condom shortage” as Malaysia contributes a major source of condoms, which he believes, is an essential medical device.

Karex, which supplies condoms globally for distribution by aid programs, had to close its three Malaysian factories at the start of the lockdown. The company has since been allowed to resume operations, but with only half of its usual workforce, Goh is pushing to ramp up production.

Meanwhile, a UN Population Fund spokesperson said, “a shortage of condoms, or any contraceptive, could lead to an increase in unintended pregnancies, with potentially devastating health and social consequences for adolescent girls, women and their partners and families.” There could also be a rise in unsafe abortions and an increased risk of sexually transmitted infections and HIV.

The UN’s sexual and reproductive health agency is now able to obtain about 50% of its usual condom supplies due to virus-related disruptions.The agency, which works with governments worldwide to support family planning, warned the poorest and most vulnerable areas would be hit hardest if stocks run low.

On the other hand, major condom makers in China have resumed operations as authorities eased tough restrictions to contain its coronavirus outbreak. Most Chinese producers are ready – and willing – to ramp up condom exports if a global shortfall arises.

Demand within the condom industry also appears to be increasing: Karex is reporting growing demand at the present time, while Indian media reported that condom sales had jumped nearly 25%-35% in the week after the country announced a total lockdown.