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Disabled Hungerford woman threatens to sue Tesco following store 'ban' over coronavirus face mask row

Shopper claims she was asked to wear mask or leave store

John Garvey

John Garvey


01635 886628

Disabled woman threatens to sue following store 'ban' over face mask

A DISABLED woman has threatened legal action against a supermarket which reportedly ejected her for not wearing a face mask.

The Hungerford woman has suffered four heart attacks and suffers from cardiac arrhythmia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma.

Although not required to do so by law or Government guidelines, she wears a lanyard which states she is exempt from wearing a mask designed to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Despite this, she said she was asked to comply or to leave by staff and a store manager from Tesco in Hungerford.

The woman has asked not to be identified after she reportedly suffered a backlash on social media.

She told the Newbury Weekly News: “Ironically, the lanyard round my neck had been given to me by Tesco staff.

“But on this occasion I was approached by the store manager who said I would have to leave if I couldn’t wear a mask.

“He said two members of the local police team had been in that same morning and warned him not to allow anyone in without a mask.

“I feel people like myself are being discriminated against.

“This is against the law.”

She said the incident happened on Tuesday, January 12.

Her husband, who accompanied her that day, said: “I’m asthmatic so I am exempt, too, but I wore a mask on that occasion.

“We’re not trying to make political points here.

“The store manager was polite, but he was just plain wrong in law.

“We’ve written to [Newbury MP] Laura Farris, but haven’t received a reply yet. We accept she’s busy, of course.”

The husband said his wife was so upset by the experience that she suffered a 48-hour attack of arrhythmia, a condition to which she is prone ever since an operation to insert a cardiac stent.

He added that they are taking legal action against the supermarket giant.

A Tesco spokeswoman said: “Since the start of the pandemic, we have focused on ensuring everyone can get the food they need in a safe environment.

“To protect our customers and colleagues, we won’t let anyone into our stores who is not wearing a face covering, unless they are exempt in line with Government guidance and we’re sorry [the woman] was unhappy with our service on this occasion.”

Government guidance states: “Premises where face coverings are required should take reasonable steps to promote compliance with the law.”

However it adds: “If you have an age, health or disability reason for not wearing a face covering you do not routinely need to show any written evidence of this. You do not need show an exemption card.

“This means that you do not need to seek advice or request a letter from a medical professional about your reason for not wearing a face covering. 

“However, some people may feel more comfortable showing something that says they do not have to wear a face covering. This could be in the form of an exemption card, badge or even a home-made sign. 

“Carrying an exemption card or badge is a personal choice and is not required by law.”

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Article comments

  • Local Reader

    06/02/2021 - 18:45

    If I had those unfortunate health issues , then I would have thought the safest way to avoid infection and to stay safe would be to be using home deliveries. How much easier is it to have a van turn up and you just fill the cupboards up. Why risk yourself going shopping currently with underline health issues until the vaccine is rolled out anyway ?


  • DeeDee


    03/02/2021 - 16:52

    This is so wrong. The discrimination being experienced by disabled people is phenomenal. I work for a well known supermarket and I have been asked where my mask is by lots of other members of staff. I asked my gsm why there aren’t any posters up explaining the sunflower lanyard and what it means. He said it was a corporate decision. So I messaged a big CEO and said it wasn’t a corporate issue and should speak to my manger. TOTAL DISCRIMINATION! Disgusting!


    • NTReader

      05/02/2021 - 13:37

      I am not disabled - so trying to see this from your point of view. I think the point you're trying to make is not that there's discrimination, but there *isn't* any discrimination between those with breathing problems and those without. In which case I'd just wear a different mask. There's no official specification for masks, so just wear one which suits you. garden_nome makes an excellent suggestion with the face shield. If wearing one makes work difficult then ask your manager to give you lighter duties. We're all in this together so I am sure that your situation can be addressed without too much difficulty. Seems reasonable, right? Then when hospitals are back to normal, I'm sure we'll be living in a mask free society again.


  • garden_gnome

    02/02/2021 - 15:53

    As far as I am aware, a mask is not going to prevent any oxygen getting to your lungs, so I'm not sure why a medical breathing issue would prevent you from wearing a simple surgical mask. If you really insist that you cant wear one, why not wear a face shield? Although not nearly as effective, at least it shows you are willing to make an effort to protect others. Having a medical issue does not mean others have to put themselves at risk.


    • berkshireboy71


      02/02/2021 - 17:15

      I am epileptic and have asthma and suffer from ptsd, bpcd, and other mental health problems But I wear a mask and it does not couse me to have breathing issues when wearing a mask.I rather wear one to try and stop getting COVID-19 from people who don’t wear a mask. Or wear one under their nose and over their nose I put mine on before I enter the store or when I get out of my girlfriends car. Suck it up wear a mask full stop