UK police break up COVID rule-breaching wedding with 150 guests

LONDON (Reuters) – British police said on Friday they had broken up a wedding with about 150 guests in violation of COVID-19 lockdown rules, which only allow six people to attend.

Weddings are currently supposed to take place only under “exceptional circumstances”.

However, officers found a large gathering in Stamford Hill, in north London, with the windows covered to stop people seeing inside. The organizer of the wedding could be fined up to 10,000 pounds ($13,700), and five others were issued 200-pound penalties.

The police had initially reported that some 400 people had attended the wedding. An investigation has been launched to identify further offences.

“This was a completely unacceptable breach of the law,” said Detective Chief Superintendent Marcus Barnett. “People across the country are making sacrifices by cancelling or postponing weddings and other celebrations, and there is no excuse for this type of behavior.”

The wedding took place at the Yesodey Hatorah Girls School, which serves Haredi Jewish families in the area, home to the biggest Orthodox Jewish community in Europe.

“We are absolutely horrified about last night’s event and condemn it in the strongest possible terms,” the school said in a statement. An outside organization was responsible for letting out its hall and it had no knowledge of the wedding, the school added.

Coronavirus cases have soared in Britain since the end of last year following the outbreak of a new, more contagious variant of the virus, which has led to the imposition of lockdowns across the United Kingdom.

The number of daily cases has fallen from a high of almost 70,000 on Jan. 8 to around 40,000 in recent days, but authorities are concerned that too many people are breaking the rules, meaning the virus keeps spreading.

On Thursday, British interior minister Priti Patel said those who broke lockdown restrictions faced punishment by police and announced a new 800-pound fine for those who attended house parties.

($1 = 0.7320 pounds)

(Reporting by Michael Holden; additional reporting by James Davey, editing by William James and Gareth Jones)