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Whitley Bay Mask-Exempt Woman Urges ‘More Understanding’

August 20, 2020

A woman who is exempt from wearing a mask said the abuse she has received while shopping without one has left her afraid to leave the house.

Louise Sharp said she needs to stay uncovered so she can communicate with her daughter who is autistic and would otherwise get distressed.

However, after negative comments from another shopper sparked a panic attack two weeks ago, she can no longer shop.

She said people should be more understanding of those with exemptions.

Ms Sharp told BBC Newcastle she was accosted at her local supermarket in Whitley Bay and when she tried to explain that she was exempt due to both her panic and anxiety disorder as well her daughter’s autism, the person still said she was “selfish”.

She ended up suffering from a panic attack and had to leave.

‘Understand exemptions’

“I haven’t been to any shop since, not once, I don’t have the confidence”, she said.

“It’s not right, I now feel under lockdown more than before.

“People feel they’ve got the authority to question anyone, and I feel more should be done to address the issue of exemption and to give people respect.

“Please understand there are exemptions and respect those exemptions.”

Face coverings must be worn in any enclosed public space in England, although there are exemptions including:

  • Children under the age of 11.
  • Those unable to put on or wear a face covering because of a physical or mental illness or disability.
  • People for whom wearing or removing a face covering will cause severe distress.
  • Anyone assisting someone who relies on lip reading to communicate.

Her pleas are being echoed by charities including the National Autistic Society, Asthma UK and the Alzheimer’s Society.

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