There may be a worldwide condom shortage as factories are forced to shut down during the coronavirus pandemic

Chaiwat Subprasom/Reuters
  • A global condom shortage is becoming of increasing concern as some of the world’s largest production centres shut down for the foreseeable future.
  • A shortage could last for months and leave humanitarian programs that prevent HIV and other sexually transmitted infections from getting their supplies.
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A global condom shortage is becoming an increasing concern as some of the world’s largest production centres shut down for the foreseeable future.

Karex Bhd, a condom producer in Malaysia that makes one out of every five condoms sold worldwide, hasn’t made a single condom in the past 10 days because of a mandatory government-imposed lockdown, Reuters reported.

Typically, Karex can make 100 million condoms in a 10-day period, and those condoms are then sold and distributed by well-known condom brands like Durex.

“We are going to see a global shortage of condoms everywhere, which is going to be scary,” Karex Chief Executive Goh Miah Kiat told Reuters. He said he foresees the shortage lasting for months.

In addition to Malaysia, Thailand and India are home to most of the factories that produce condoms. As coronavirus cases surge, shutdowns in these countries could also contribute to a condom shortage.

Goh said he is especially concerned about the looming shortage’s effect on humanitarian efforts in Africa where condoms are in high demand for HIV prevention, but that the shortage could impact anyone who is having sex.

“The good thing is that the demand for condoms is still very strong because like it or not, it’s still an essential to have,” Goh said. “Given that at this point in time people are probably not planning to have children. It’s not the time, with so much uncertainty.”

Although China, another country that manufactures a large number of condoms, is ending lockdowns, a lag in production could still be felt, according to Chris Purdy, the CEO of family-planning production company DKT International.

“During the recent outbreak, many Chinese factories were shuttered and factory workers asked to stay home or work at reduced hours,” Purdy told Business Insider. “Many of these contraceptive suppliers are not back to full capacity. As a result, we now expect delays in production and shipping schedules.”

Purdy said DKT International expects delivery times for their condoms, which are produced in Malaysia, to double from two months to four months.

Delivery has also slowed as concerns about the pandemic have spread.

“As vigilance and concern grows around transmission of the coronavirus, we are seeing heightened vigilance by oversight bodies, including around import, freight, and clearance of all shipments, including of contraceptives,” Purdy said. “There is increased scrutiny and requests for paperwork on products arriving from other countries, resulting in delays in clearance approvals.”

For example, DKT condom shipments to Egypt are undergoing an extra 18-day quarantine.

Purdy said global programs that provide condoms to those who need them should invest in extra inventory as soon as they can to offset the effects of condom production and shipment delays.

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