TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Police over the weekend issued steep fines to nearly a dozen family members attending a funeral for exceeding crowd limits set by the Level 3 epidemic prevention measures, though the fines were later canceled.
At 7 a.m. on Saturday (June 5), police received a report of a large gathering of "20 to 30 people" in Nantou County's Guoxing Township that was allegedly exceeding the Level 3 alert's limit on group event of five indoors and 10 outdoors, reported UDN. When police arrived at the scene, they found 11 people were attending a funeral service for their deceased patriarch.
One of the officers took out his mobile phone and shot video of the venue and participants. Although they were all wearing face masks and maintaining a social distance, the officer issued citations to all 11 participants for violating the epidemic prevention regulation on crowd sizes.
The health department determined that each participant should pay a fine of NT$60,000 (US$2,160) for a total of NT$660,000. However, the size of the fine and the behavior of the police officer sparked a public outcry.
(Facebook, 嘉義綠豆大小事 photo)
A member of the Facebook page 嘉義綠豆大小事 showed photos of the officer aggressively questioning the funeral participants and shooting video of each, and the commenter criticized him for being "unreasonable." Family members were shocked by the callous behavior of the police officer and called him "cold-blooded."
Puli Police Station Deputy Director Chen Chih-wen (陳志文) said that there had been recent cases of people infected with COVID-19 at a funeral, and out of caution, the officer took video footage for evidence. Indeed, on June 4, a 42-year-old female (case No. 10,469) and a 67-year-old male (case No. 10,655) were diagnosed with COVID-19 after participating in a funeral in Nantou County.
The Nantou County Civil Affairs Office stated that although public funeral gatherings are banned, private services can be held at family homes as long as masks are worn and names are registered. Nevertheless, such family gatherings are still prohibited from including more than five people indoors or 10 people outdoors.
However, because not all members of the public are yet aware of the restrictions on funerals, the office stated that the government decided not to impose fines against the family in this case. Puli Station Director Fang Chiu-mei (方秋梅) said, "My colleague, in this case, may not have been able to perform his duties properly. I went personally to their residence to express my sincerest apology to the family on behalf of the police department."