Earlier this week, the news on medicine shortage in Europe made headlines. Antimalarial medicines, HIV medicines, sedatives, and painkillers were short in the market. But to everyone’s surprise, a condom shortage is also expected soon as the coronavirus pandemic continues to accelerate.
The coronavirus pandemic has made all factories closed, the raw material supply is disrupted and almost all big manufacturers are non-operational right now. On the other side, half of the world’s population is facing a lockdown, keeping them indoors and avoiding social contact with other people. The condom usage is much likely to exceed during this time but is their a sufficient stock of condoms available for customers?
Malaysia is one of the biggest producers of rubber and rubber products that are used to make condoms. It is facing a complete lockdown since March as the coronavirus positive cases have reached their highest levels in entire Southeast Asia.
Karex is the biggest Malaysian company that manufacturer contraceptives have reduced its yet products, and it is now making 200 million fewer condoms as it was making in a routine before this lockdown.
Many other international suppliers are also facing the same problem and thus the net production of condoms is reduced, suggesting the next shortage to be a condom shortage.
Goh Miah Kiat, is the CEO of Karex and on this situation he says; “The world will definitely see a condom shortage,” in one of his interviews.
He further added that; “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 the COVID-19 pandemic, there are also other serious issues that we need to look at.”
Karex is a top supplier of condoms in many countries and it has closed three of its factories in Malaysia for an unknown period ever since the pandemic began. The company is allowed to operate however it asked to use only 50% of its workforce which causes this reduced supply of condoms to the international markets.
The United Nations has also alarmed the sexual health industry to be affected soon as 50-60% of the condom supplies are disrupted during this coronavirus pandemic. A spokesperson from the UN Population Fund told that; “Border closings and other restrictive measures are affecting transportation and production in a number of countries and regions,”
The lockdown has not only reduced the working force and affected raw material supply but also faced logistics problems as many countries have closed their international borders. Now that they are needed more by people, the stocks at local stores are running low and no new shipment is expected any time soon.
This unavailability of condoms might cause people to go for unsafe abortions and a high chance of sexually transmitted infections to hit them. The UN spokesperson also said that; “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.”
These factories locked down, closed borders and reduced production could tear the condom industry as its demand is getting higher every day. The CEO of Karex also talked about the increasing demand of condoms internationally when people are confined to indoors. Interestingly the Indian media has reported that condom sale in India has risen by 25-35% within a week as the 1.3 billion Indians are now under lockdown amid coronavirus pandemic.
Despite all this chaotic situation, the condom making companies from China are giving positive signs. This virus emerged from China and hit its economy hard but seems like the country is now over this phase as the lockdown in many Chinese cities is lifted recently. Many manufacturers have confirmed to resume their work after the coronavirus pandemic is now in its lag phase. HBM Protections, one of the biggest producers of condoms has now announced that it is operational and trying to triple its supplies by the end of this year.