Official exemption card for face masks rolled out to stop abuse


OFFICIAL exemption cards have been rolled out for people who can’t wear face masks to stop them getting abuse.

The Government has made the cards available to disabled people and others who have health reasons which make wearing a mask difficult after campaigners warned about the risk of abuse.

Boris Johnson wears a mask at a medical centre in London

The exemption card can be stuck on the back of mobile phones

The official card introduced last night can be printed out and stuck to a person’s phone or pinned to clothing so people know they have a reason not to be wearing a mask.

Face coverings are mandatory by law from today in shops, supermarkets, takeaways and public transport in England – and those who refuse to comply can be fined £100.

But people with conditions like breathing difficulties, anxiety disorders or autism, or children under 11 do not need to wear masks.

When asked if he thought it was a good idea for the public to be “shaming” those not wearing masks, Boris Johnson said: “I think we should rely on the massive common sense of the British people that have so far delivered the results that we’ve seen, and that’s going to work.”

Care minister Helen Whately said this morning the public would have to be understanding that not everyone can wear a mask.

She told BBC Breakfast: “We don’t want to see members of the public accosted for not wearing a face mask.”

The Government’s website says: “Some people may feel more comfortable showing something that says they do not have to wear a face covering.

“This could be in the form of an exemption card, badge or even a home-made sign.

“This is a personal choice, and is not necessary in law.”

Disability charity Scope has warned people with disabilities could be abused for not wearing masks once they were made mandatory – and some campaigners brought out unofficial exemption cards.

The charity warned: “It’s also vital that disabled people are aware that exemptions apply if you would struggle to wear a mask.

“It’s welcome that such barriers have been identified in the regulations released on Sunday as ‘reasonable excuses’ for not wearing a face covering.

“But we are concerned about what will happen in reality on buses and trains across the country.

“There is a real risk that transport staff, British Transport Police or passengers may unfairly accuse disabled people who are legitimately not wearing face coverings of not doing their bit.”

They added: “Disabled people have often felt forgotten during the pandemic, and are now contending with the added fear that they may be fined or face new risks of abuse when legitimately using public transport.”