As you’ll have heard this week, the nations supermarkets declared that they will refuse entry to anyone not wearing a face covering, except for exemptions. That’s how it was phrased by the way. “Except for exemptions.” Within hours of the announcement on Tuesday, people were taking to Twitter to complain that they had been interrogated by heavy-handed store staff and security guards after they’d explained that they were medically exempt from wearing the proffered mask. They were being asked to show evidence that they were indeed exempt. Sportswriter Gary Chappell Tweeted that he’d been turned away from his local Tesco for not wearing a lanyard to show that he was exempt. As Gary pointed out, he is not required to carry any evidence of his disability
Here’s the government advice on exemptions:
If you have an age, health or disability reason for not wearing a face covering:
- you do not routinely need to show any written evidence of this
- you do not need show an exemption card
This means that you do not need to seek advice or request a letter from a medical professional about your reason for not wearing a face covering.
However, 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.
Carrying an exemption card or badge is a personal choice and is not required by law.
It couldn’t be clearer. Nobody has the right to ask you why you are exempt or what your medical condition is, under any circumstances. You should expect (sadly) to be asked to wear a facemask, as the media, SAGE and the government ramps up the propaganda about cases and hospitalisations. But when you politely say “no thanks, I’ve got a medical exemption”, the conversation should end there. The government website also makes it very clear that no member of the public should ever challenge another as to why they are not wearing a mask. This guidance has been available since last Spring, but tellingly the broadcast media never mentions it. The BBC in particular has no excuse here. The beeb is well aware that tension is rising, particularly around the issue of masks and that there have been some very ugly incidents where non mask wearers have been attacked. When criticising the maskless incessantly, as the media is doing, it has a responsibility to point out the above.