We’re here to guide you through the coronavirus pandemic. Sign up to the Life newsletter for daily tips, advice, how-tos and escapism.
When people living in England head to the shops from Friday, they’ll be told to wear a face mask or risk being turned away. And for some, this news brings with it a lot of anxiety.
While people with physical or mental illnesses or disabilities are exempt from wearing face covers, they still fear being shamed by members of the public or shop workers for not wearing one.
Nicola Little, 27, has asthma and anxiety, and finds it difficult to breathe when wearing a face cover. While she’s considered exempt from having to wear a face covering because of her health, she worries about being shamed when out in public because her illness is invisible.
Little, who lives in Stevenage with her partner and young daughter, wore a face cover on the bus when they were first made mandatory on public transport back in June because she was too scared to tell the bus driver she had asthma.
But when she put on the mask, Little, who is also prone to panic attacks, started to feel the familiar rise of anxiety. “I start panicking, I get anxious, I’m hot and stuffy. It just makes you feel really restricted,” she tells HuffPost UK.
She has since told bus drivers she has asthma, and was given a downloadable exemption card from Asthma UK to show anyone who might question her for not wearing one, but she still feels guilty as well as anxious about being shamed by strangers.
Little says she feels “scared” about masks becoming mandatory in shops and worries she’s going to have to revert to online shopping to avoid being called out for not wearing one.
“I don’t think I’d be able to do a food shop with a face mask on the whole time,” she says. “I’ll have to start shopping online again, which I don’t really want to do because I enjoy going to the shops – it’s good for the mental health as well.”
The 27-year-old, who works in a...