Global condom shortage feared as company that makes most closed in pandemic
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Global condom shortage feared as company that makes most closed in pandemic

Condoms

A pack of condoms is shown on a shelf in a drug store in downtown Pittsburgh in this June 29, 2005, file photo.

A baby boom is looking more likely in 9 months or so. And not just because people are staying home in a worldwide effort to stanch the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Karex Bhd. makes more than 20 percent of the world’s condoms, heralding itself as the “World’s Largest Condom Maker.” The Malaysia-based company’s factories were closed for a week in response to the pandemic.

“That’s already a shortfall of 100 million condoms,” Reuters reported.

The company is now up and running again, with Malaysia deeming condom production a “critical” industry. But Karex is operating at only 50% capacity.

“It will take time to jump-start factories, and we will struggle to keep up with demand at half capacity,” Karex chief executive Goh Miah Kiat said.

The company produces more than 5 billion condoms a year for 140 countries, Bloomberg reported.

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

China, India and Thailand also produce a significant number of condoms, and those countries are facing similar lockdowns on movement and businesses that were instituted in Malaysia.

More than 21,000 people in Malaysia have been infected with COVID-19, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins.

Not only are condoms expected to become more difficult to find on store shelves in the weeks ahead, but they’ll be more expensive.

“We are still paying all our workers full salaries,” Goh told Reuters, “but workers only come in half the time, so generally there will be a cost increase.”

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