THE Scottish Government has announced plans to roll out a face covering exemption card “very soon”.

Speaking at yesterday’s coronavirus daily briefing, MSP Jeane Freeman responded to concerns that exempt people felt anxious and “stressed” about not wearing a mask in public.

Many people are not able to wear coverings due to health reasons – with the Health Secretary confirming plans are being drawn up.

When will the card be in place?

Ms Freeman told the briefing they are “working on” the card.

She said: "It's almost finished, it's in development and working out how we would distribute that to those who genuinely would qualify for it, without overburdening or GPs or anyone else.

"So, we're almost completed that exercise so I would hope it would be available to people very soon and that's important."

Glasgow Times: Face coverings are currently mandatory on public transportFace coverings are currently mandatory on public transport

What is the card?

An exemption card can be used by people, where reasons with their health make it difficult for them to wear a mask.

The card can be used to identify them as being exempt, therefore taking any potential anxiety over run-ins with unfriendly members of public.

Ms Freeman said: "I am very aware that for some people for whom wearing a face covering is very difficult indeed because of a health condition that they have that there is concern for some about how other people see them and judge them.

"And so we are working on a card that individuals in those circumstances would be able to have."

Who is exempt from wearing a face covering?

According to the Scottish Government website, there are a number of reasons to be exempt from wearing a face covering.

These include:

  • Babies, toddlers and children under 5 years of age.
  • People who have a health condition or who are disabled, including hidden disabilities, for example, autism, dementia or a learning disability, or are providing care for someone with a health condition or disability, and a face covering would be inappropriate because it would cause difficulty, pain or severe distress or anxiety to the wearer or the person in the care of the wearer. This includes children with breathing difficulties and disabled children who would struggle to wear a face covering.
  • You cannot apply a covering and wear it in the proper manner safely and consistently
  • Anyone who needs to take medication and cannot do so whilst wearing a face covering.
  • A person who is communicating with someone else who relies on lip reading and facial expressions to communicate. Such people should remove the face covering only temporarily whilst communicating and replace it immediately afterwards.
  • Anyone who is seeking medical assistance, or acting to avoid injury, illness or harm, and where wearing a face covering would make this more difficult. This also applies if someone needs emergency assistance and they don’t have a face covering with them or there is not time to put one on.
  • A person who is providing care or assistance to a vulnerable person and where wearing a face covering would make this more difficult. This also applies if someone needs emergency assistance and they don’t have a face covering with them or there is not time to put one on.

Where are face coverings mandatory?

A face covering is mandatory in a number of indoor settings, as well as on public transport. 

These include:

  • Shops, takeaway restaurants, pharmacies, estate agents, beauty parlours. 
  • Bars, pubs, cafes and restaurants except when an exemption applies.
  • Aquariums, indoor zoos or visitor farms, and any other indoor tourist, heritage or cultural site.
  • Banks, building societies and credit unions.
  • Cinemas.
  • Community centres.
  • Crematoriums and funeral directors' premises.
  • Libraries, public reading rooms, museums and galleries.
  • Places of worship.
  • Post offices.
  • Storage and distribution facilities, including collection and drop off points.
  • Bingo halls.
  • Casinos.
  • Bowling alleys.
  • Amusement arcades and other leisure facilities (such as snooker and pool halls).
  • Indoor funfairs.
  • Indoor fitness studios, gyms, swimming pools or other indoor leisure centres.
  • Train services including the Glasgow subway and Edinburgh Tram
  • Bus services.
  • Taxi and private hire vehicles.
  • Bus stations, railway stations (including open air stations) and airports.
  • Ferry services (unless the ferry is open to the elements and physical distancing can be achieved, or the vessel is large enough that physical distancing can be achieved).
  • Airline services.

Glasgow Times: Health Secretary Jeane Freeman made the announcementHealth Secretary Jeane Freeman made the announcement

What should I do in the meantime?

However, the MSP urged people to "be kind" and give strangers the benefit of the doubt.

She added: "Let's not jump to judgement if we see someone not wearing a face mask or a face covering when we're in a shop.

"Yes, in shops people will ask this, the staff may ask as you go in and two for you to wear one and having that card if you're not able to, will be very helpful, but we need to look out for each other in all of this and as the First Minister has said many times, be kind to each other.

"So, let's not make other people's lives more difficult than it needs to be. And, let's give them the benefit of the doubt if they're not wearing a face covering, just maybe, that's because it's too difficult for them to do."