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The World Could Run Out of Condoms. Blame the Coronavirus

As people stuck at home use more condoms, factories are making them less because of social distancing restrictions.
30 March 2020, 8:18am
condom shortage coronavirus

This article originally appeared on VICE ASIA.

As if an imminent global recession and social isolation isn’t bad enough, the coronavirus is now also negatively affecting our sex lives. Apparently, there might soon be a global condom shortage.

That is according to Malaysia-based Karex Bhd, the world’s largest condom maker that temporarily closed its factories due to a nationwide lockdown. After a 10-day closure, Karex’s factories in Malaysia resumed operations on Friday, 27 March, as part of a “special exemption for critical industries,” Reuters reported.

However, under Malaysia’s lockdown regulations, Karex is only allowed to deploy half of its workforce. As a result, the company's Chief Executive Goh Miah Kiat warned that condom prices could rise significantly.

"We are still paying all our workers full salaries but workers only come in half the time so generally there will be a cost increase," he told Bloomberg.

"We will struggle to keep up with demand at half capacity,” said Goh. “We are going to see a global shortage of condoms everywhere."

Karex produces five billion condoms a year, accounting for 20 percent of the world’s condom supply. Its clients include international family planning agencies and global brands such as Durex.

Karex also has its own brand, ONE condoms, which features intriguing, experimental flavours like rendang (a popular spicy dish), durian, and teh tarik (milk tea). Karex said that its stockpile can only last for another two months.

At the same time, demand for condoms is increasing significantly as people stay home. Goh told Bloomberg that the demand for condoms is experiencing “double digit” growth.

“At this point in time people are probably not planning to have children. It’s not the time, with so much uncertainty,” Goh told Reuters.

Karex has been underperforming in the stock market since 2017. The recent social distancing measures put in place as a result of the coronavirus has exacerbated the economic pains of the company.

Malaysia’s lockdown is set to last until April 14. As of writing, Malaysia has 2,470 cases, the highest in Southeast Asia. Thirty-five people have died in Malaysia due to the coronavirus.

To make things worse, other major condom producers in countries like China, India, and Thailand, have also been badly affected by the coronavirus.

Better save those rubbers.

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