Here’s what to do if you can’t wear a face covering in mandatory settings - medical cards explained

Although it is mandatory to wear face masks in a number of indoor settings - including supermarkets and shops - some people may not be able to do so due to medical reasons.

Numerous UK supermarkets, including Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, Asda and Tesco have recently said that entry to their stores would be denied to those not wearing masks unless they had a valid medical reason - after some have been lax in wearing them.

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Although the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) says that “carrying an exemption card or badge is a personal choice and is not required by law,” those who have medical reasons for not wearing a mask may feel more comfortable carrying one.

What if I can’t wear a face mask?

According to government guidance, 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,” says the DHSC.

The English government explains that there are some circumstances in which people may not be able to wear face coverings, and that people should “be mindful and respectful of such circumstances,” as “the reasons for this may not be visible to others.”

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The Northern Ireland government website further reiterates this message and explains that if you have a condition which means you cannot wear a face covering, then you only need to say, if asked, that you cannot wear one because you are exempt.

However, it adds that if you do not wear a face covering and you are not exempt or do not have a reasonable excuse for not wearing one, “you are committing an offence and could be fined.”

Similarly, the Scottish government explains that those exempt under the guidance and regulations do not have to prove their exemption, and they “should not be made to wear a face covering or denied access to places where face coverings are required.”

The Welsh government explains that “disabilities and impairments are not always visible to others, such as neurodevelopmental conditions, and respect and understanding should be shown to those who have good reasons not to wear face coverings.”

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How to download an exemption card template

For those who are exempt from wearing a face covering, but who may feel more comfortable showing something which says that they do not have to wear one, this can be done “in the form of an exemption card, badge or even a home-made sign.”

The Government is not able to provide physical exemption cards or badges, but if you wish to use one then you can download exemption card templates.

You can then print these off yourself or opt to show them on a mobile device.