Here’s who qualifies for a face mask exemption card - and how to get one

Some people will be exempt from the mandatory face mask rules (Photo: Shutterstock)
Some people will be exempt from the mandatory face mask rules (Photo: Shutterstock)

Face coverings are to become compulsory in shops and supermarkets in England from Friday (24 July), as the new law comes into effect.

The change comes following government rules introduced last month which made face coverings mandatory on public transport.

The decision to extend the wearing of face masks to shops marks more stringent efforts from the UK government to minimise the risk of coronavirus infection as more businesses start to reopen again to the public.

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    However some people are exempt from wearing a mask - here’s what you need to know.

    Does everyone have to wear a face mask?

    As of Friday 24 July, it will be mandatory to wear a face covering inside shops and supermarkets, as well as on public transport, with those who flout the rules facing a fine of up to £100.

    Government guidance also encourages people in England to wear face coverings in enclosed public spaces where it is more difficult to observe social distancing, or where people are more likely to come into contact with others they would not normally meet.

    However, some people will be exempt from the rules.

    Government guidance states that you do not need to wear a face covering if you have a legitimate reason not to do so. This includes:

    • young children under the age of 11
    • not being able to put on, wear or remove a face covering because of a physical or mental illness, or impairment, or disability
    • if putting on, wearing or removing a face covering will cause you severe distress
    • if you are travelling with, or providing assistance, to someone who relies on lip reading to communicate
    • to avoid harm or injury, or the risk of harm or injury, to yourself or others
    • to avoid injury, or to escape a risk of harm, and you do not have a face covering with you
    • to eat or drink, but only if you need to
    • to take medication
    • if a police officer or other official requests you remove your face covering

    It is also not compulsory for shop or supermarket staff to wear face coverings, although it is recommended where appropriate and where other mitigating measures are not in place, such as screens or visors.

    How can I get a face mask exemption card?

    The charity Hidden Disabilities is now giving out a face mask exemption card for anyone with the right requirements to be exempt from the law.

    There is no official card or proof that is required to show you are exempt from rules, as set out by the government. The card simply indicates that you have a hidden disability, illness or impairment, and as such, have a reasonable excuse for not wearing a face covering.

    The card only costs 55p and can be used to show you are exempt from wearing a face covering on entering shops, supermarkets and on public transport.