Across the nation, many sectors and industries have been badly hit ever since Covid-19 appeared last year.
The legal profession is no different. As officers of the court, lawyers continue to guide their clients through the judicial system despite the challenges during these trying times.
This includes coming in close contact with prisoners brought in from detention facilities where overcrowding and adequate healthcare is a perennial problem.
With more lawyers succumbing to Covid-19 in the last 16 months, several state Bar Committees, including Selangor, felt they had to intervene to ensure their members were protected.
Selangor Bar chairman V. Kokila Vaani said 16 of its members had succumbed to Covid-19 since 2020. They comprised senior and young lawyers.
Kokila said Selangor had the highest number of courts – 14 – compared to the other states.
She said the Selangor Bar had 7,252 registered members. There were also currently 3,000 law firms operating in the state. Thirty-one firms have ceased operations since March last year.
She said although proceedings for civil matters were conducted online due to Covid-19, lawyers handling criminal cases were still required to attend court.
“For criminal lawyers, the first time they meet their clients is in court, when they are brought in after they are arrested.”
But with vaccination at a sluggish pace last month, and with an increasing number of Covid-19 cases in the state, Selangor Bar decided to write to the state’s health department on June 10 for its lawyers to receive priority vaccination.
“The Selangor, Negeri Sembilan and Perak Bar committees were the first to write to our respective state health directors as we were not getting anywhere with vaccination at that point,” said Kokila.
“We received confirmation from the Selangor health department on June 21 that they had approved our application for priority vaccination.
“The next day, we informed our members that they could apply to be vaccinated, on condition that they did not have a prior vaccination appointment.”
Kokila said the registration drive ended on June 25, and 1,318 members signed up. A total of 400 chambering students in the state were also included under the programme and the collated data were later handed over to the state health department.
She said many of those who signed up were between the ages of 30 and 58.
The mass vaccination programme was held on July 7-8 at the Shah Alam City Council’s Dewan Tanjung, in Section 19, Shah Alam.
“Covid-19 has certainly limited how lawyers functioned, but the dispensation of justice cannot wait.
“Many of our members have expressed their gratitude to have received vaccinations earlier this month,” Kokila said.
She added there were no immediate plans to apply for a second round of mass vaccinations unless the need arises.
“The Malaysian Bar also has a nationwide vaccination programme and we urge our members who have not been vaccinated to register under that programme.
“I hope our members and pupils in Selangor, and colleagues in other states will get their vaccinations as soon as possible to ensure we are all protected.”