Who is exempt from wearing a face mask? Full list of groups who don’t have to wear a face covering in Scotland

Supermarket chains have tightened their rules to enforce the wearing of face masks at all times

A growing number of supermarkets and businesses have announced plans to ban customers who refuse to wear face masks, as the country looks to reduce the spread of Covid-19.

It is a legal requirement to wear a face covering in many settings in Scotland such as shops, on public transport and most indoor public places, as well as communal areas in workplaces.

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A security guard stands by the entrance to a Morrisons supermarket as a customer wearing a face mask enters the store. (Pic: Getty Images)

But who is exempt from wearing a face covering and why?

Why do we wear face masks?

The compulsory wearing of face coverings was introduced in the summer of 2020, as restrictions began to ease following a national lockdown to suppress the coronavirus pandemic.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said at the time: "Please everybody comply with this, because it is for the good of all of us. It will help keep us safe and protect everybody."

A study conducted by the University of Edinburgh found face coverings can block out 99.9 percent of potentially lethal droplets expelled when an infected person coughs or talks.

What's the government advice around wearing face masks?

The wearing of face masks have long been part of the strategy to reduce the risk of infection against the deadly coronavirus disease, with the hands, face, and space messaging.

As well as physical distancing of a minimum two metres and regular washing of hands, the use of a face mask can help limit the spread of the virus which remains in circulation.

"The best available scientific evidence is that, when used correctly, face covering may provide some additional protection, especially in crowded and less well ventilated spaces, and where 2 metre distancing is not possible," advises the Scottish government.

Who is exempt from wearing a face mask?

The rules are clear.

Face coverings are not an alternative to any other precautions.

But there are some exceptions when the wearing of a face mask is not required.

Babies, toddlers, and children under the age of five are not required to wear a face covering due to the possibility of overheating, suffocation and strangulation.

People with certain medical conditions or disabilities, emergency services workers on duty and a person making a public address are not required to wear a face covering either.

A scenario where wearing one would cause “difficulty, pain or severe distress or anxiety”, or if it cannot be worn in “a proper manner safely and consistently” are also exempt from the rule.

People exercising, eating, drinking, getting married or entering into a civil partnership are not required to wear one, nor is anyone who needs to take medication.

The government also lists a number of scenarios when the wearing of one is not required in the workplace for the safety of employees, such as on a factory floor due to production requirements, and if partitioned screens are able to be erected.

Not wanting to wear a face covering or experiencing mild discomfort when wearing one are not permissible reasons not to wear one.

“If there is a need to remove a face covering temporarily you should, at all times possible, maintain 2 metres distance from other people who are not members of your household. Removing your face covering places others at an increased risk,” the advice states.

What is a face covering exemption card?

People who are exempt from wearing a face covering under the guidance don't have to prove it.

Yet people can if they wish to do so by applying for an exemption card from the government.

People can apply for one on the grounds of feeling more comfortable showing something that says they are exempt.