More than 50 ceremonies have allegedly taken place in the capital during lockdown with lookouts used to raise the alarm and money put aside for potential fines.
It comes after a school being used as a Covid testing centre was revealed to have hosted a secret wedding for 150 guests which had to be broken up by police.
Yesodey Hatorah Girls’ Senior School in Stamford Hill was raided by officers following a tip-off that around 150 guests had gathered last Thursday night.
The Yesodey Hatorah Secondary Girls School in Stamford Hill, North London, where officers broke up a wedding attended by around 150 people on Thursday evening last week
Speaking anonymously, one source involved in the Orthodox weddings industry told Jewish News: ‘These illegal weddings have been going on for 10 months.
‘We’re not talking about one or two. We are talking multiple weddings every day. All have 150 to 200 guests. At one wedding the bride was Covid-positive.’
There are allegedly four London venues used for the weddings along with Yesodey Hatorah, whose principal Rabbi Avroham Pinter died from Covid-19 last spring.
Another venue in Hackney is said to host up to four weddings a week underground, with security guards confiscating phones as guests arrive so photos do not emerge.
A venue in Elstree in Hertfordshire allegedly hosted two illegal large weddings last year, while there were also plans to use a warehouse in Canvey Island, Essex.
A file picture of a legal Orthodox wedding in Stamford Hill before the coronavirus pandemic
A bride circles her groom at an Orthodox wedding in Stamford Hill before the pandemic
Jewish News claimed there are small number of caterers, florists, photographers, musicians, videographers, security teams and organisers involved in the weddings.
Rules on UK weddings during third lockdown
The UK Government has said people in England should only consider booking a wedding or civil partnership, or continuing with one already booked, in ‘exceptional circumstances’.
This may be if someone or a partner is seriously ill and not expected to recover, or is to undergo debilitating treatment or life-changing surgery.
Weddings and civil partnership ceremonies must only take place with up to six people. Anyone working at the event is not included in the total.
People are urged to stay local and avoid travelling outside of their local area, but they are able to travel in England to attend a wedding if they ‘absolutely need to’ and it is being held in accordance with the legislation.
People can also leave England and travel to other parts of the UK or abroad, to attend a marriage. This is again when it is taking place as set out in the legislation, subject to any travel restrictions in that country.
Sources added that some organisers are now asking for a £10,000 payment upfront from the wedding party to pay the fine if police raid the ceremony.
On one occasion, officers were allegedly called to reports of a wedding at a venue, and when they got there were shown small study halls upstairs without going downstairs – where it was taking place.
England’s lockdown rules state weddings can only take place in exceptional circumstances with up to six people.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer told the Jewish News: ‘In terms of Stamford Hill… that is not acceptable. There is no excuse for not complying with the rules.
‘Everybody who knowingly breaks the rules is putting themselves and everyone else at risk, especially in a week like this, when we reach the awful milestone of 100,000 deaths. It is inexcusable.’
After reports emerged of the £7,000 wedding at Yesodey Hatorah last week, Jewish leaders reacted with fury.
The organiser was fined £10,000 and five other people, thought to include the bride and groom, were handed £200 fines for breaching Covid regulations.
The school is regularly hired out for cut-price weddings at a cost of around £7,495 including hall hire, caterers, flowers, band and photographer.
School leaders last week said they had no knowledge of the event arranged by an outside organisation.
Documents released under freedom of information in 2014 show that the school had a lettings hire contract with a subsidised wedding scheme called Simchas Nissuin, a Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations (UOHC) project.
The UOHC denied any knowledge of the wedding. It is not known whether the agreement was still in place at the time of Thursday’s wedding or who organised it.
The school said last week it was investigating, adding: ‘We are absolutely horrified about the event and condemn it in the strongest possible terms.’
637,000 people in London have tested positive for Covid-19 and 12,000 have died during pandemic
The number of people in London who have tested positive for Covid-19 has now hit 636,811 after 4,076 further tests were recorded yesterday.
The most recent week of complete data, of January 16 to 22, showed 44,365 people had tested positive in London, a rate of 495 cases per 100,000 people.
This compares with 63,625 cases and a rate of 710 cases per 100,000 for the previous week. For England as a whole there were 387 cases per 100,000.
Yesterday there were 6,785 Covid-19 patients in London hospitals, which compares with 7,711 patients last week on January 19.
Also yesterday, there were 1,158 Covid-19 patients in mechanical ventilation beds in London hospitals. This compares with 1,207 patients on January 19.
Meanwhile it was also announced yesterday that 167 people had died in London hospitals following a positive test for Covid-19.
The total number of people who have died following a positive test for Covid-19 in London hospitals up to yesterday is 12,270.
— to www.dailymail.co.uk