On 11 January - as coronavirus cases continue to rise and England is in a third lockdown - the UK Government said it was getting tougher on face mask enforcement in supermarkets after infections and deaths across the country reached “crisis point.” On Tuesday 12 January, the big four supermarkets confirmed they would all be adopting a policy of refusing entry to non-mask wearers.
We are extremely shocked, saddened and disappointed with growing public perception that every one that is not wearing a face-covering is fraudulently claiming that they are medically exempt from wearing one.
We support the increase in enforcement of COVID-19 regulations to help stem the spread of the pandemic but are also calling on the public to be mindful that there are still many people living with a hidden disability that cannot wear a face covering for medical reasons and this disability may not be immediately obvious to you.
As a reminder these are the UK Government guidelines surrounding face-covering exemption:
- children under the age of 11 (Public Health England does not recommend face coverings for children under the age of 3 for health and safety reasons)
- people who cannot put on, wear or remove a face covering because of a physical or mental illness or impairment, or disability
- where putting on, wearing or removing a face covering will cause you severe distress
- if you are speaking to or providing assistance to someone who relies on lip-reading, clear sound or facial expressions to communicate
- to avoid harm or injury, or the risk of harm or injury, to yourself or others ‒ including if it would negatively impact on your ability to exercise or participate in a strenuous activity
- police officers and other emergency workers, given that this may interfere with their ability to serve the public.
The Hidden Disabilities Sunflower is designed to discreetly indicate that the wearer or someone with them has a hidden disability and may require some extra help, understanding, or patience – it does not mean the wearer is face-covering exempt. We do produce face-covering exemption cards for those with a hidden disability that are medically exempt from wearing one.
Please be kind, stop and think before you make a judgement that the person not wearing a mask is fraudulent, 1 in 5 of us has a disability and 80% of disabilities are hidden – that's over 10 million people. Please recognise that there are legitimate health reasons that prevent some people from wearing a mask.