Policy to make non-mask wearers provide proof of exemption suspended

The First Minister said no business should be asking those exempt from wearing a mask to provide proof.

Rebecca Black
Thursday 06 January 2022 16:33
A young woman in Belfast puts on her face covering (Liam McBurney/PA)
A young woman in Belfast puts on her face covering (Liam McBurney/PA)

Those who are medically exempt from wearing face coverings in Northern Ireland will not have to prove it, the First Minister has said.

In December, the Executive indicated it would remove some exemptions on face coverings and place the onus on the individual to provide medical proof on why they cannot wear one.

Paul Givan said on Thursday the policy in terms of the onus being on the individual to provide proof has now been suspended.

He said there has been clear evidence brought forward that individuals with “very valid reasons for being exempt” were becoming very distressed around providing proof.

“Assurances had been provided both to me and to other ministers that this process could be certified through GPs that clearly is not the case because of the pressures the GPs are taking, and therefore this policy has now been suspended in terms of any enforcement that would be associated,” he said.

“No business should be asking anybody to provide proof for not wearing a face covering, that is something that businesses should not be doing.

“What we are still encouraging, and it is still the law, where you can wear a face mask, you should be wearing a face covering within the different settings that we have said that is required, so if that is public transport and different areas that people are now very familiar with.

“The onus on people to provide proof, that has now been suspended. It’s an issue that the Executive will return to, but as of the urgent decision that was taken by myself and the deputy First Minister on January 1, that grace period is now being extended from tomorrow (Friday) on an indefinite basis.

“I accept that people do have reasons that are legitimate and when a business asks them to wear a face covering and they say they are exempt, that should be respected and nobody should now be asked to provide proof on that issue.”

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