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New mask exemption card introduced

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People who have genuine reasons for not being able to wear a face mask can access a new personalised exemption card from the end of May, 2022.

The new process is being introduced to make sure people who have genuine reasons for not being able to wear a mask have more certainty in being able to demonstrate that.

For the business community, the new cards will mean evidence that a person with the new card is exempt from the requirement to wear a mask.

The new process will be administered by the Ministry of Health and allows people who can’t wear a mask to get a personalised card to help them access businesses and services where wearing a mask is required. From the end of May, people will be able to apply for a card through the Ministry of Health website and it will be issued to them digitally or by post.

COVID-19 Orders will be amended to provide that the new card is conclusive proof that someone is exempt.

The new cards will be entirely optional – but they will be legally recognised as conclusive proof of a person’s exempt status, which the old cards are not.

Key points:

  • A new card will be issued with applications through an online process or via an 0800 number.
  • The application process is light-touch and based on self-declaration that the applicant meets one of the criteria for exemption set out in the Order.
  • The card will be personalised via an individual’s NHI number – so it will apply to a specific individual named on the face of the card and cannot be transferred.
  • The card will be issued by the Ministry of Health.
  • The card will constitute conclusive legal proof of the bearer’s exempt status – there will be no need for the bearer to provide any additional information to prove that they are exempt, although businesses may ask for some evidence of identification if they wish. 
  • Businesses must accept the card as conclusive proof of exempt status.
  • People who deliberately misuse the new exemption card will be in breach of an Order and subject to the offences and penalties provisions of the COVID-19 (Public Health Response) Act 2020;
  • Use of the cards is optional and all previous cards issued will remain valid.  However – the new card is the only card that will provide conclusive legal proof of exempt status.
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