Police caution churches
Church gatherings have topped the list of instances of people failing to comply with the COVID-19 State of Emergency orders to curb the spread of coronavirus.
Police Commissioner, Fuiavailiili Egon Keil, said of the 120 individuals and groups who have been issued warnings and verbal notices for non-compliance since Friday’s announcement of emergency prohibitions, close to 70 were church groups.
Statistics provided by Police show 24 of the gatherings were from Catholic churches; 19 from the Congregational Christian Church of Samoa; four gatherings of the Methodist church; 15 for Assembly of God churches; and 7 for non-specified denominations.
One of the state of emergency orders prohibits gatherings of five or more people including for churches, funerals, birthday celebrations and other social purposes.
Fuiavailiili said it was unfortunate that, in some cases, law enforcement officials were obliged to attend church services more than once to issue a warning about breaches of the orders.
He said a person who disobeys a state of emergency order is liable to a fine of $10,000 if convicted or a two-year imprisonment term.
“We are urging the religious sector to please conform with the orders,” said the Commissioner.
“We had talked to N.C.C. [National Council of Churches], head of different church organisations and they are all aware of our position.”
The Commissioner says that should the need arise, and if the churches and groups continue to disobey the orders, the Police will resort to making arrests.
The Commissioner is calling on church groups to support the orders through voluntary compliance.
He says that resources being spent on checking churches to ensure they comply with the orders should be spent elsewhere: monitoring borders, hospitals and crimes.
“If we are being resistant you are taking critical resources of Government that should be used somewhere else,” he points out.
“We are patrolling wharves, the airport, the markets, different hospitals and other critical areas that we have posted the cops to.
“We urge the public to work together with us, to remain calm, be collective and let’s work together for the safety of our country.”
Fuiavailiili added that even Police Officers are subject to the virus and are taking preventative measures to ensure it does not spread among their ranks.
In addition, he urged members of the public to be considerate of Police Officers turning up to events and venues as they are ensuring that everyone is in compliance with the orders.
Other instances of non-compliant behaviour that the Police have included buses continuing to operate while being unaware of the ban of their being on the road.