Who does not need to wear a face mask

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

Face mask exemptions

There are some situations where a face mask does not need to be worn. We also know that some people who have a disability or health condition may not be able to wear a face mask. Please be mindful of this. They still have the right to food, pharmacies and other services.

In general, you should wear a face mask whenever you can. COVID-19 is transmitted by droplets, 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 in a school setting at Red for Years 4 and up
  • 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:

  • 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. 

Advice for people who cannot wear a face mask

We know that some people who have a disability or health condition may not be able to wear a face mask. An exemption card is available that you can show to transport operators, retailers and service providers.

Exemption cards are not mandatory but make it easier whenever you need to explain that a mask is unsuitable for you.

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 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, you need to 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.
  • Keep track of where you have been and who you have seen.

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.

Request an exemption card for face masks

If you cannot wear a face mask, you can get an exemption card. You can show your exemption card when needed.

You can request a card from:

  • Disabled Persons Assembly NZ by contacting them on 04 801 9100 or emailing them at info@dpa.org.nz — for disabled people or if you have a health condition
  • Blind Citizens NZ on 0800 222 694 or emailing them at admin@abcnz.org.nz — for blind, deafblind, low vision, and vision-impaired people
  • Deaf Aotearoa by emailing covid@deaf.org.nz — for people who are Deaf or hard of hearing.

You should only request an exemption card if you have a disability or health condition that makes wearing a mask unsuitable.

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