by Jessica Peters in the UK: Almost a year into the New Abnormal and its bedazzled masks are a constant visual reminder of the dystopia we all endure on a day-to-day basis.
A once peaceful trip to the shops is now replaced by a sea of masks, judging eyes and unwanted questioning.
Although masks were first introduced on a voluntary basis and (UK) government officials had publicly explained the inefficacy of face coverings in stopping a virus, it wasn’t long before the rule was amended to no longer include choice after experts ‘shifted their thinking’.
Hundreds of videos showing clear discrimination flooded the internet after many shop workers and security staff relished their new found power without any proper training in the interpretation of legislation – which isn’t all that surprising considering (UK) Chief of Police Dame Cressida Dick admitted that this rule would be unenforceable and instead encouraged the public to shame shoppers who dared to show their smiling faces in public.
Pre-recorded (UK) government-compliant messaging is boomed over the tannoy of most shops telling us it
is against the law to enter without a face covering or a medical exemption, but is that entirely true?
The legislation introduced for this rule in the UK is titled The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Wearing of face coverings in a relevant place) (England) Regulations 2020, this defines a face mask as a covering of any type which covers a person’s nose and mouth.
Section 4 of this Regulation is called ‘Reasonable Excuse’. It lists the reasons why a person may not follow this mask rule and includes medical, mental and health disabilities but also for those who may suffer ‘severe distress’ as a result of either putting on, wearing or removing a face covering.
Additionally the government website also offers information on the use of exemption cards, stating that while some may feel more comfortable to carry proof of their exemption with them, it is not a legal requirement and you should not be required to produce one in order to access any service, public or private.
Over the last year scientists, professors and real journalists across the world have worked tirelessly to publish true and accurate information surrounding not only the inefficacy of the face coverings but also the dangers of prolonged and inaccurate use by the general public.
On a personal tip, the level of enforcement does seem to vary depending on the area or the shop you happen to be in but if I should be asked whether I can put on a face mask my response is a polite “no, thank you”.
Nine out of 10 times I find the worker, already overworked and underpaid, will just accept my response as simply as I presented it to them, for fear of making their day any more strenuous than it already is.
If they question further I would yield to tell them that I am “exempt”. And should the shop worker be feeling over-zealous that day and choose to challenge me on the reason for my exemption I would politely remind them that I do not need to show proof of my exemption and that this should have been made clear to them during training.
You can ask for a manager if the situation is not quickly resolved, and it’s a good idea to save the links for both the face covering legislation and the government guidance on exemption cards – should you need to request the assistance of a manager, these links will evidence your rightful claims.
New Zealand face mask exemption information here.
Cressida Dick ‘shame’ comments – LBC Radio interview
Experts shifted their thinking – The Lancet