PEOPLE with medical exemptions from wearing face coverings in Wales have reported experiencing discrimination.

While coronavirus regulations in Wales state that masks must be worn in shops and on public transport, there are exemptions to the rules.

However, some of those who are exempt say they are experiencing increasing amounts of discrimination from people unaware of their exemption.

Nicola Buttland is one who says she has felt hostility due to not wearing a mask.

Ms Buttland said: "I read an article recently on the experience of security guards in supermarkets, and thought that is the exact opposite of my experiences.

"I have experienced personal discrimination and am seeing so much of it at the moment."

She is exempt from wearing a mask due to suffering with emphysema, and has a letter from her GP which she can show if challenged.

But Ms Buttland, from Port Talbot, said she has encountered discrimination in day-to-day life from shops and members of the public due to not wearing a mask.

She said: "Whilst I am going about my business, the treatment is quite horrific and discriminatory.

"It is getting worse by the day and I am aware of members of the public telling people to wear a mask now as well.

"There are lawful exemptions to wearing a mask.

"I have written to the first minister, the health minister and to the Welsh Government, but not enough is being done to raise awareness.

"These exemptions are there for a reason and it is becoming a real problem."

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “Whether somebody has a reasonable excuse not to wear a face covering will not always be obvious.

"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.

“A number of organisations, including the Welsh Government, have created exemption cards that can be printed and shown in shops and on public transport. This is downloadable from

“Face coverings are just one of the ways people can protect themselves and others.

"We urge everyone to continue to stay at home, limit your contact with others, wash your hands and keep to the social distancing rules.”


This is what the Welsh Government guidance says about face covering exemptions.

"There are some circumstances where people may not be able to wear a face covering.

"Please be mindful and respectful of such circumstances, noting that some people may be less able to wear face coverings and the reasons for this may not be visible to others.

"You may have a reasonable excuse not to wear a face covering if (for example):

  • you are not able to put on or to wear a face covering because of a physical or mental illness, or because of a condition or impairment
  • you are accompanying somebody who relies on lip reading where they need to communicate and you cannot access a clear face covering
  • you are escaping from a threat or danger and don’t have a face covering

"From experience in other countries where face coverings have been required, we know survivors of violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence sometimes find that wearing a mask triggers flashbacks to traumatic experiences.

"If that applies to you then this would also be a good reason not to wear a face covering."