‘Factory closures may affect supply’

Orderly line: Workers under home quarantine collecting their meals outside the Top Glove Klang workers’ dormitory in Taman Daya Meru, Klang. — KK SHAM/The Star

PETALING JAYA: The temporary closure of the world’s largest glove maker’s factories following a spike in Covid-19 cases among its workers will affect the production and supply of surgical gloves in the country and globally, said an industry group.

Malaysian Pharmaceutical Society president Amrahi Buang said the chain effect should be viewed carefully as Top Glove is the largest manufacturer of surgical gloves in the world.

“The closure of the factories will affect glove production and supply for both local use and export.

“The impact is huge. It was mentioned that this closure will affect the market, especially in the first quarter of 2021, ” he said in an interview yesterday.

With the world’s demand for gloves increasing significantly due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Amrahi said the closure would also impact the country’s economy, which needed revival in these dire times.

He noted that surgical gloves were essential at all medical facilities to protect healthcare frontliners.“These gloves are usually worn once and must be properly discarded as clinical waste since they are contaminated with blood, bodily fluids and excrement as well as microbials like bacteria, virus and fungi, ” he said.

Association of Private Hospitals of Malaysia president Datuk Dr Kuljit Singh pointed out that the supply of surgical gloves may only see a problem if Top Glove factories were to remain closed for a longer period of time.

“Compared with face masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE), glove supply was never an issue, even at the beginning of the pandemic in the country.

“Most hospitals usually make frequent purchases in volume and have ample supply since its usage is regular.

“If the company’s production is only closed for a short while, we shouldn’t have a problem.

“If it has to remain closed for many months, things may be different, ” he said, adding that there were many other glove makers who could step up to meet the demand.

At a press conference yesterday, Top Glove had said that it would face a slight delay in deliveries due to the reduced operations.

But the company said it was unlikely to outsource its production as other glove factories’ demand was also good, and would prioritise delivery for essential services.

On Monday, Senior Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob announced that 28 factories belonging to Top Glove in Kapar, Klang, would be closed in stages following a surge in Covid-19 cases linked to the Teratai cluster.

He said the factories would be closed gradually so that their workers could be tested.

However, Association of Malaysian Medical Industries secretary-

general Datuk Haminnuddin Abd Hamid said the local demand for surgical gloves would not be affected as the local and government supply was fulfilled by several other companies.

“The Malaysian demand is small and the factory’s temporary closure will not adversely affect the supply.

“Besides, there are 80 other local glove manufacturers in the country and the companies supplying to the Malaysian market have enough stock, ” he said.

Haminnuddin said the gap in global demand left by Top Glove would also be filled by other leading makers who are recognised with world standards and certifications.

“Demand for gloves has reached dizzying proportions and our members are doing their best to meet requirements, ” said Malaysian Rubber Glove Manufacturers Association president Dr Supramaniam Shanmugam.

He said global demand was estimated to reach 360 billion pieces this year, with Malaysia supplying at least 250 to 270 billion pieces.

But he allayed concerns on whether enough gloves would be produced for the global market, saying that new capacity was available to make good the interim shortfall.“There will not be any aggravated disruption to whatever is currently being supplied to the world.

“We understand the fear and concern of the global community and that of the World Health Organisation in wanting to have adequate supply of medical gloves to combat Covid-19, ” he said.

Dr Supramaniam also called on association members to maintain the highest level of hygiene in the workplace and in the hostels and dormitories housing the workers.

Malaysian Medical Association president Datuk Dr Subramaniam Muniandy agreed, saying that more enforcement was needed to ensure proper accommodation conditions for foreign workers.

“The workers must not be packed in a small living area because the virus can spread quickly, ” he said.

He added that the outbreak among foreign workers must be contained quickly for the sake of public health concerns.

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