Who does not need to wear a face mask

For some people wearing a face mask is unsuitable. Find a list of valid reasons where a mask does not need to be worn and who does not need to wear one.

Latest news — 27 April 2022

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

Learn more about the new face mask exemption card

When face masks do not need to be worn

There are some situations where a face mask does not need to be worn.

In general, you should wear a face mask whenever you can. COVID-19 is transmitted by particles, so masks are a way we can protect ourselves and each other.

If you are around people you do not know, it is a good idea to wear a mask.

Face masks do not need to be worn:

  • by children under 12 — except at Red for those aged 8 years or over or in Year 4 or above when indoors at school and on public and school transport
  • at an indoor gathering if there is exclusive use of the venue or defined space, for example weddings or funerals
  • on a boat or ship that has no enclosed space for passengers, for example jet boat tours
  • on charter or group tours
  • on private flights
  • by drivers, pilots, staff or crew of the service if they are in a space completely separated from passengers, for example pilot in a cockpit, train driver in a train cab, or a captain on a ferry.

You also do not need to wear face mask if:

  • you are outdoors
  • you are exercising
  • it is unsafe, for example if wearing one means a driver cannot safely operate the vehicle
  • there is an emergency
  • you have a physical or mental health illness or condition or disability that makes wearing a face mask unsuitable
  • you need to prove your identity
  • you need to communicate with someone who is deaf, hard of hearing, deafblind or has a disability which makes it hard to have effective communication
  • you need to take medicine
  • you need to eat or drink, if eating or drinking is usually allowed
  • it is not required by law.

If you cannot wear a face mask

We know face masks are unsuitable for some people due to disabilities or health conditions. You still have the right to food, pharmacies, education and other services.

If you cannot wear a face mask, you can request a Communication Card from the Ministry of Health. You can show the card to transport operators, retailers and service providers. It can help make it easier to explain that a face mask is unsuitable for you.

You do not have to show a Communication Card if you cannot wear a face mask — but it may help you feel more comfortable.

Request a Communication Card (external link)

Advice if you cannot wear a face mask

Sometimes the reason why a face mask is unsuitable for you is not obvious to others. You should not worry if a business owner or employee approaches you to ask whether you are able to wear a face mask. They are just ensuring the safety of you and others.

It is inappropriate for a business owner or employee to enquire about the nature of your disability or condition. But it is reasonable for them to check whether you are exempt from the rule to wear a face mask.

Keeping up healthy habits

If you cannot wear a face mask, make sure you keep up other healthy habits when in public or while accessing businesses and services.

  • Stay home if you are sick.
  • Keep a 2 metre distance from people you do not know.
  • Regularly wash and thoroughly dry your hands often.
  • Cough and sneeze into your elbow.

You can also consider if there are delivery or click-and-collect options you could use instead of entering a retail store. Or ask family and friends to pick things up for you.

People at higher risk from COVID-19

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