MONROVIA – The infection rate and negative impacts of the coronavirus disease might be waning but it is no secret that the pandemic has left indelible stains on the judicial sector of the country, especially the Liberia National Bar Association (LNBA).
By: R. Joyclyn Weah with Journalists for Human Rights
Scores of the association’s members have already fallen prey to the virus—a situation that prompted its president, Cllr. Tiawan Gongloe, to beseech members of the public to keep the group in their prayers.
“We want to call on Liberians to pray for members of the NBA. The bar as it is experiencing serious losses due to coronavirus related deaths,” Cllr. Gongloe said in June of this. This was after over eight members of the bar had died in less than a month of the third wave of the coronavirus disease.
Unlike the 2014 Ebola outbreak, this is the first time for the number of lawyers in the country to fall prey to a virus in such a short period of time.
The LNBA leader then called on his colleagues across the country not to doubt the existence of the virus and should follow all the health protocols instituted by health authorities to keep safe.
This toll on the judicial sector of the country has however led to a massive campaign for members to take advantage of the vaccination exercises that are currently ongoing across the country.
Members of the association have begun rally colleagues to get to the nearest centers to get their jabs.
One of those rallying his colleagues is Judge J. Kennedy Peabody, Resident Circuit Judge of Civil Law Court at the Temple of Justice in Monrovia.
“I want to say to those of you who are yet to receive any dose of the vaccines to do so in order to prevent unforeseen circumstances. Please go and take their COVID-19 vaccine,” Judge Peabody told judges and other judicial actors while delivering his formal charge at the opening of the sixth Judicial Circuit Civil Law Court for the September 2021 term of Court.
He also urged colleagues to continue to observe social distance, wear masks, and often wash their hands when possible to prevent the spread of the virus.
The Civil Law Court Judge noted that overcoming the crisis can be done through collective efforts; as such it is necessary for lawyers to take their vaccine as they go about their duties.
COVID cases have declined drastically to five from over two hundred a month ago. The country has recorded 5,799 cases of the virus, out of which 286 people died, and a total of 5,508 recoveries.
Despite the decline of the infectious rate, judicial actors believe members should see the vaccines as a priority.
The president of the Montserrado Bar, Sam Cooper, recently pleaded with his colleagues to not take issues of the vaccines lightly.
“We have been affected by the virus and so we should be the ones to treat the vaccines as a priority,” he said.
Sam Cooper said, “We lost four of persons in less than two weeks of the new wave of the virus.”
The calls from the judicial actors come at a time when over 2706 inmates within major prison facilities across the 15 counties are also poised to be vaccinated, according to the Ministry of Justice (MOJ).
The MOJ said its Human Rights Platform (HRP) is working in collaboration with other partners to roll out the vaccines in those correction facilities as a way of focusing on several priority areas, including mitigating the risk of COVID-19 infection among inmates, staff, and detainees.
“We are expected to begin the vaccination of over 2706 inmates within the 16 prison facilities across Liberia,” S. Sainleseh Kwaidah, Director for Prisons Bureau of Corrections and Rehabilitation, said at the launch of the initiative in Kakata recently.
“This initiative is intended to avoid the outbreak of the virus within prison facilities, and to ensure inmates’s safety throughout the pandemic.”
He disclosed that 114 of the 174 inmates have received the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, while 15 of the 31 correction officers there have also been immunized at the Kakata Central Prison.
“Prison superintendents and correction officers are excited and are leading vaccination exercises as the health team moves into the facilities,” he noted.
Director Kwaidah is also rallying employees of the ministry, especially those in his division to lead by example by taking the vaccines.
“This is everybody’s business and we as leaders should begin to take the lead to encourage other people to do the same,” he said.
Kwaidah further “As I speak to you I’m fully vaccinated and I’m also encouraging all of my staff at the bureau of corrections to be vaccinated. He continues “A lot of my superintended and correction officers are standing by to be the first to be vaccinated as the county health team of each county moves into our prison.”
However, a senior MOJ official who preferred not to be named said, urged her staff, who she said are hesitant, to take the jabs.
“A lot of the people in the ministry especially in my division are afraid to get vaccinated because of the way they saw the vaccine treated me. But I’m talking to them to do so,”
Explaining her experience she said, “I was sick for nearly a month from June to July, I couldn’t move my legs or hands and I stopped coming to work; a lot of my colleagues thought I could not survive it.”
She stressed the need for the ministry of health to carry on massive awareness relative to the immunization exercise with respect to the aftermath of the vaccine and even monitored people after taking the vaccine.
This story was produced with support from Journalists for Human Rights (JHR), through the Mobilizing Media in the Fight Against COVID-19 in partnership with FrontPage Africa.