They kept a respectful distance as they walked alongside and behind the late Bobby Storey's hearse.
That, however, was virtually the only time proper social distancing was observed at yesterday's massive, almost state-like funeral of the former IRA chief in west Belfast.
Mr Storey, who died on June 21 while undergoing a lung transplant, aged 64, was laid to rest after Requiem Mass at St Agnes' church. His coffin was draped in the Tricolour.
Thousands of mourners congregated on each side of the Andersonstown Road as the cortege left the family home at Owenvarragh Park at around 10.30am for the short journey to the church.
Men and women dressed in black trousers, white shirts and black ties formed a guard of honour, while black flags hung from the windows of houses along the street, and two kilted pipers played airs that included The Minstrel Boy, Sean South of Garryowen, A Nation Once Again and On Raglan Road.
In accordance with coronavirus regulations, about 30 people were permitted to walk behind the hearse, including Mr Storey's partner Teresa, children, grandchildren and other family members. Also among them were Sinn Fein presidents past and present Gerry Adams and Mary Lou McDonald, the party's northern leader and deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill and members of her late predecessor Martin McGuinness's family.
Thousands more lined the footpaths as far as the eye could see.
There was a low-profile but visible police presence, and scores of volunteer Sinn Fein stewards in place to manage the large crowd on a cold, grey morning, with rain falling only as the funeral procession made its way to Milltown Cemetery, where Mr Adams delivered a eulogy.
"I don't know anyone who knew him who didn't like him. Except for MI5, MI6, the old RUC, the British Army, and prison governors," said Mr Adams.
"How could you not like him? He was smart, well read, funny, caring, always ready to listen - always willing to help - always prepared to give freely of his time and his great positive energy."
Earlier, a security check of the area surrounding the church had been conducted.
The service was led by Fr Gary Donegan at the request of the Storey family.
Fr Donegan, director of the Passionist Peace and Reconciliation Office in north Belfast, knew Mr Storey for two decades from his time as rector of Holy Cross Church in Ardoyne.
Mourners were told that Mr Storey was a "24-hour-a day-activist and leader who led from the front all his life".
In his homily, Fr Donegan quoted from a tweet written by Sinn Fein veteran Gerry Kelly shortly after Mr Storey died, in which the MLA wrote: "Bobby ran the marathon of life at a sprint, in conflict and in peace... his legacy will drive us all forward."
Fr Donegan - who earlier this week hit out at "keyboard warriors" criticising him for taking on the former IRA leader's funeral - said: "Over these days, many comments and eulogies have and will be written about Bobby. This is different."
He told the congregation that Mr Storey was raised during "a time when communities were under threat and the Army were constantly patrolling the streets... ultimately the family were intimidated from their home and spent several days sheltering in Girdwood Army Barracks."
Mr Storey would later rise in the republican ranks, becoming the IRA's director of intelligence and the northern chairman of Sinn Fein.
He spent many years in jail for various offences, played a key role in the mass IRA breakout from the Maze Prison in 1983 and was widely regarded as one of the most feared and formidable members of the republican organisation.
He is also credited with having played a prominent role in the peace process.
Fr Donegan said that, having worked as a confessor for the past 29 years, he thanks God for "not being confined to the limitations of human compassion and mercy".
"Often the biggest task of a confessor is to convince people to follow God's example and to forgive themselves," he told the congregation.
Reflecting on Mr Storey's life, Fr Donegan described him as a devoted partner to Teresa with a "gift of humour extended to all he met".
The priest recalled how Mr Storey's 30-year relationship with Teresa "began to develop from the time of Bobby's first parole in 1989" and how his partner "spoke of Bobby the family man and the great love he had for sister Geraldine and brothers Seamus and Brian".
"She told us of the great mutual love shared between Bobby and her sons Emmett, Fergal and Sean," he continued.
The priest added that Bobby Storey will be fondly remembered by those who knew him.
Ironically, his funeral may be remembered more by those who did not.