Face mask exemptions: Five ‘reasonable excuses’ for refusing to wear one – see list

The goverment has reintroduced restrictions and wearing masks in certain places is once again mandatory in the UK. But there are a number of exemptions to the rule

Woman with inhaler
Some medical conditions mean people are exempt from wearing masks in the UK

New rules have been introduced by the government and people must now take extra precautions to avoid Covid-19.

Prime minister Boris Johnson announced the return of masks in order to combat the new mutant strain of the coronavirus, known as the ‘ Omicron variant ‘.

The action took effect on Tuesday, November 30.

There is concern over the variant and World Health Organisation (WHO) IS investigating if the new strain is more resistant to vaccines and if it is more easily transmitted.

Masks are only needed for some situations, however, so there is some confusion over where people should be wearing them.

Those who do not wear a mask and are not exempt due to medical reasons or their age can face fines of up to £200. However, the government has published a list of ‘reasonable excuses’

So where don’t you need a mask?

5 reasonable excuses for not having a mask

Police officers patrol Victoria Station


Alex Lentati/LNP)

The government has released five main excuses and a list of exemptions for not wearing a mask.

People who do not cover their faces with a mask could end up with a £200 fine.

This is doubled for each offence and could land people with a maximum fine of £6,400.

1. Physical and mental impairments

A person is not required to have a face covering if they are physically unable to wear the mask or put it on.

Any mental illness that means a mask cannot be worn without ‘severe distress’ also means that a person is exempt.

If a person is accompanying or giving assistance to another person that requires lip-reading, then a mask if not required.

2. Medical emergencies

A person experiencing a medical emergency may remove their mask


Getty Images)

People do have just cause to remove their masks under certain circumstances.

It means that a person may remove their mask to avoid harm or injury to themselves or others, this includes for medical treatment.

If it is ‘reasonably necessary’ for a person to eat or drink, then they can remove their mask to do this.

This is also the case if a person needs to take any medication they may have.

3. Non-medical emergencies

Similarly, if a person is moving into a place where masks are required, but is doing so to avoid injury or escape harm, then they are not required to wear their mask.

If they do not have one, they will not be required to find one in these circumstances.

4. Requested to remove mask by others

A person may be required to remove their face mask by another for identification purposes.

Bus and train drivers can ask people to lower their masks should they require identification for a ticket or a railcard.

This is the same for shops, banks, building societies and post offices where ID is required.

In pharmacies, the pharmacist may require a person to lower their mask ‘in order to assist in the provision of healthcare or healthcare advice’.

Police or other local authorities can also make requests that people remove their face coverings.

5. Mask exemptions in the UK

Some people are medically exempt from wearing a mask


Getty Images/Science Photo Library RF)

You may be medically exempt from wearing a mask, so if you have asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD), cystic fibrosis, chronic bronchitis, emphysema or lung cancer.

Paramedics and police officers are not required to wear masks.

You do not need to show an exemption card if you are exempt, but it is advised as it may help explain your situation.

Children under the age of 11 are not required to wear a mask either.

Where you do need to wear a mask?

Shops now require people to wear masks


SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

The government has published a list of the places you will be required to wear a mask, which does not include hospitality and cinemas and theatres.

Outdoor spaces do not require masks.

It is as follows:

  • Shops and supermarkets (places which offer goods or services for retail sale or hire) — this includes shops in larger premises such as a gift shop within a museum)
  • Shopping centres (malls and indoor markets)
  • Takeaways (without space for consumption of food or drink on premises)
  • Auction houses and retail galleries
  • Post offices, banks, building societies, high street solicitors and accountants, credit unions, short term loan providers, savings clubs and money service businesses
  • Estate and letting agents and retail travel agents

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  • Premises providing personal care and beauty treatments (such as hair salons, barbers, nail salons, massage centres, tattoo and piercing studios)
  • Pharmacies
  • Vets
  • Public transport services (aeroplanes, trains, trams, buses, coaches and ferries)
  • Taxis and private hire vehicles
  • Transport hubs (airports, rail and tram stations and terminals, maritime ports and terminals, bus and coach stations and terminals)
  • Face coverings must also be worn in any car or small van during a professionally delivered driving lesson, a practical driving test or during one of the practical tests for giving driving instruction.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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