KUALA LUMPUR — Manufacturers in Malaysia, the world’s biggest source of rubber gloves, warned on Monday that a government-imposed lockdown could result in a worldwide shortage of the protective equipment needed in combatting the coronavirus pandemic.
The government has put the country under lockdown until the end of the month, forcing most businesses to close except for “essential” services.
However the Malaysian Rubber Glove Manufacturers Association (MARGMA), an industry body, said its members have been forced by the lockdown to operate at half their usual capacity.
The restrictions, the association said, have “led to a shortfall of gloves around the world,” prompting the group to urge the Malaysian government “to allow the rubber glove industry to operate at 100 per cent so that we can meet the surge in demand for rubber gloves from many parts of the world.”
MARGMA believes that the pandemic will drive demand for rubber gloves up from 298 billion pieces in 2019 to 345 billion this year, with Malaysian manufacturers ready to supply 65 per cent of global needs.
The warning came as Malaysia’s government promised on Monday to hand out 10 million protective face masks to citizens as concerns grew about the spread of the virus in the country.
As the national death toll rose by four on Monday to 14, Malaysia’s Health Ministry linked two of the casualties to an Islamic ceremony held at the end of February in Kuala Lumpur’s outskirts.
The event was attended by an estimated 15,000 people and has resulted in virus cases in Brunei, Cambodia, Singapore and Thailand, as well as in Malaysia.
The deaths were announced as the government sought to ramp up its response to the growing crisis by ordering 10 million masks from China.
“I have directed the National Disaster Management Agency to look into this and make sure the face masks are brought in as soon as possible,” Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said, after announcing several short-term measures to assist businesses hit hard by the virus’ spread.
MARGMA said its members have pledged to donate 19 million rubber gloves to the government in a further effort to combat Covid-19, the lung disease caused by the coronavirus.
Malaysia’s confirmed cases of the disease reached 1,518 after 212 new positive diagnoses, the Health Ministry said on Monday evening.
Malaysia’s caseload has almost tripled from 553 one week ago, the same day the government announced the lockdown – billed as an attempt to “break the chain of infection.”
Muhyiddin said on Monday that the lockdown could be extended if infection numbers do not recede, repeating a warning made last week about the pandemic, which has killed more than 15,000 people worldwide.Show