Face coverings: what they are, when to wear one and exemptions


Due to the coronavirus outbreak, the demand for a face covering drastically increased. Therefore, we created our very own Mental Health Foundation face covering adorned with the green ribbon, the universal symbol for mental health awareness. 

However, we are aware that some individuals are exempt from wearing a face covering due to physical and mental health conditions. In this piece we will outline who may be exempt from wearing a face covering, and what the different regions require by law.

What a face covering is

In the context of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, a face covering is something which safely covers the nose and mouth. You can buy reusable or single-use face coverings. You may also use a scarf, bandana, religious garment or hand-made cloth covering but these must securely fit round the side of the face.

Face coverings are not classified as PPE (personal protective equipment) which is used in a limited number of settings to protect wearers against hazards and risks, such as surgical masks or respirators used in medical and industrial settings.

Face coverings are instead largely intended to protect others, not the wearer, against the spread of infection because they cover the nose and mouth, which are the main confirmed sources of transmission of virus that causes coronavirus infection (COVID-19). 

It is recommended that you regularly wash your reusable face covering to maximise protection and dispose of single-use face coverings in a residual waste bin.

When to wear a face covering

There are some places where you must wear a face covering by law, unless you are exempt or have a reasonable excuse. This varies from country to country please follow the links below for those that apply to you:

When you do not need to wear a face covering and face covering exemptions

Some people are not required to wear a face covering and there are some circumstances where people may not be able to wear a face covering. This also varies from country to country please follow the links below for those that apply to you:

Exemption cards

If you have an acceptable reason for not wearing a face covering, you do not routinely need to show any written evidence of this nor do you do not need show an exemption card.

However, some people may feel more comfortable showing something that says they do not have to wear a face covering. This could be in the form of an exemption card, badge or even a home-made sign.

Carrying an exemption card or badge is a personal choice and is not required by law.

If you wish to use an exemption card or badge, you can download exemption card templates. You can then print these yourself or show them on a mobile device.

Examples can be found here:

Order a Green Ribbon face-covering in support of mental health awareness.
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