World to face global condom shortage, biggest producer says

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A worker performs a test on condoms at Malaysia’s Karex condom factory in Pontian, 320 km southeast of Kuala Lumpur in 2012

A global shortage of condoms is looming, the world’s biggest producer said, after a coronavirus lockdown forced it to shut down production.

Malaysia’s Karex Bhd makes one in every five condoms globally. It has not produced a single condom from its three Malaysian factories for more than a week due to a lockdown imposed by the government to halt the spread of the virus.

That’s already a shortfall of 100 million condoms, normally marketed internationally by brands such as Durex, supplied to state healthcare systems such as Britain’s NHS or distributed by aid programmes such as the UN Population Fund.

The company was given permission to restart production on Friday, but with only 50% of its workforce, under a special exemption for critical industries.

“It will take time to jumpstart factories and we will struggle to keep up with demand at half capacity,” Chief Executive Goh Miah Kiat told Reuters.

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

Malaysia is Southeast Asia’s worst affected country, with 2,161 coronavirus infections and 26 deaths. The lockdown is due to remain in place at least until April 14.