COVID-19: Advice for people who are unable to wear a face mask

Last updated: 3 May 2022

On 31 May this page will be updated with the new mask exemption card application process that was announced on 27 April: New mask exemption card to remove uncertainty (Unite against COVID-19 website).

If you have an existing communication card, it remains valid. From 31 May you are encouraged to apply for the new mask exemption card as it has your name on it and will be conclusive evidence of a person’s exempt status. Any applications via this page up to 30 May will be processed as a Communication Card.

We know face masks are unsuitable for some people due to disabilities or health conditions. It is not always obvious why a face mask may be unsuitable for someone. For example, someone may have been the victim of a crime, or might suffer from a mental illness or condition that is not apparent to the outside observer.

A Communication Card has been developed for you to show to transport operators, retailers and service providers. These make it easier to explain that a face mask is unsuitable for you.

Communication Cards were previously issued by the Disabled Persons Assembly of New Zealand (DPA). If you have a card issued by the DPA, you don’t need to request a new one here. There is no difference between these cards and you can continue using your current Communication Card.

There is no legal requirement to carry a Communication Card, though many choose to do so.

For those unable to request a Communication Card through this web page, you can also request a Card by calling 0800 28 29 26 and selecting option 2, or by texting 8988.

Advice on mask wearing and requesting a communication card

The following outlines common scenarios where people may find mask wearing difficult.

When to use your Communication Card

It's important to be mindful of why business owners or employees may approach you to ask whether you are able to wear a face mask. They will likely be doing so out of an interest in making other customers feel safe, or because their business requires it.

While it is inappropriate for a business owner or employee to enquire about the nature of your disability or condition, it is reasonable for them to ask whether a person has an exemption from face mask requirements.

Other hygiene and safe practices

If wearing a face mask is unsuitable for you due to a disability or health condition, it’s especially important that you are vigilant in your other hygiene and safety practices when in public, and while accessing businesses and services.

Stay home if you’re sick. When out and about keep your distance from other people, wash your hands often, and sneeze and cough into your elbow.

Consider if there are delivery or click-and-collect options you could use instead of entering retail stores.

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