Chief Rabbi: ‘No circumstances’ Covid-19 app be used on Shabbat and Chagim
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Chief Rabbi: ‘No circumstances’ Covid-19 app be used on Shabbat and Chagim

While praising the app and encouraging people to download it, he said there is 'no expectation' for observant Jews to use it in Synagogue

Jack Mendel is the Online Editor at the Jewish News.

The new NHS Covid-19 mobile phone application on an iPhone, after the app went live on Thursday morning.
The new NHS Covid-19 mobile phone application on an iPhone, after the app went live on Thursday morning.

There is “no expectation” for Orthodox communities to use a new NHS Covid-19 app on Yom Kippur or Shabbat, the Chief Rabbi has said.

His comments come amid the launch of the app on Thursday, with an appeal sent to places of worship by the government to install it and use the technology while congregating.

The dept of Health and Social Care urged shuls, churches, mosques and temples to “ensure they have NHS QR code posters visible on entry so customers and visitors who have downloaded the new NHS Covid-19 app can use their smartphones to easily check-in”. The app will be used to contact people in the event of a Covid outbreak at a venue they attend.

The appeal caused concern in the community, with the use of technology forbidden on Shabbat and Jewish holidays (chagim).

Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis stressed there are “no circumstances in which this app may be used”.

He told Jewish News the ‘“NHS Covid-19 app will be a valuable tool in helping to control the spread of the Coronavirus and I would encourage all who are able, to download and make use of it.” He added however, it is ‘one part of the wider NHS Test and Trace Service which is designed to account for people who may not have access to such digital tools as well as those who do.”

Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis (Photo credit: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire)

We have received assurances that there is no expectation that the app be switched on and with one all of the time, including over Shabbat and Chagim.”

As such, following a number of questions received from members of the Jewish community, I want to make clear that there are no circumstances in which this app may be used, even passively, on Shabbat or Chagim. 
For a better understanding of this matter and related considerations, please consult your Rabbi.”

This comes amid new restrictions introduced by Boris Johnson, including a limit of six people that can meet. Synagogues can have greater numbers, provided social distancing rules are stringently followed inside the building.

Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said: “The launch of the app.. is a defining moment and will aid our ability to contain the virus at a critical time.”

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