Calls for medical exemption cards to be issued to those who cannot wear masks in public

Derry and Strabane councillors moved to grant those who cannot wear masks for medical reasons an exemption card to protect them from embarrassment or harassment when out in public.

In Northern Ireland, face coverings became mandatory on public transport in July and certain indoor settings, such as shops, in August.

However, for those who suffer from certain respiratory illnesses, such as asthma, this is not possible.

“The Government needs to therefore show its recognition of this bracket of people by implementing this motion,” said SDLP councillor, Angela Dobbins, who brought forward a motion calling for the medical card.

Councillor Dobbins also moved that the council seek guidance from the Minister of Health on what his current “enforcement mechanisms” are with regards to the wearing of masks in public.

Sinn Fein councillor, Patricia Logue, suggested an amendment to the motion, arguing that the idea of an exemption card is too “bureaucratic” at this stage and would prove to be too problematic.

She instead advocated for there to be more instruction on what type of masks should be worn, how they should be worn and their purpose.

Aontu councillor, Anne McCloskey, seconded this, saying that she had filed a freedom of information request to the Executive and Health Minister asking for evidence on the efficacy of the masks and a risk assessment into their physical and psychological impacts.

“People need to be treated like adults. Social distancing and hand-washing are efficient enough,” she said.

PBP councillor, Shaun Harkin, praised the motion for its “solidarity and consideration for workers’ rights and the vulnerable”, but warned against “giving police new powers to crack down on people unfairly”.

Twenty-three councillors voted for the motion and two against. The motion was carried.