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Source: Human Rights Commission

As New Zealanders outside Auckland move into level 2 the Human Rights Commission is reminding people to wear masks, but also to not discriminate against those who have an exemption to mask-wearing.   

“We have human rights and responsibilities to our whānau, neighbours, workers, and wider communities. Putting on a face-covering is one of these obligations that comes with our human rights responsibilities to each other. However, the Ministry of Health has made it clear they do not need to be worn if a person has a physical or mental health illness or condition, or a disability that makes wearing a face-covering unsuitable,” Disability Rights Commissioner Paula Tesoriero said.

Tesoriero is urging New Zealanders to remember that some disabled people are unable to wear face coverings.

“Disabled people have a human right to access supermarkets, healthcare, and other services. For some, they are unable to wear a face-covering. This is not a reason to discriminate against them,” Tesoriero said.

If anyone thinks they have faced unlawful discrimination, they can make a complaint to the Human Rights Commission. The Commission can help with advice and information and, if necessary, mediate complaints.

If a person cannot wear a face-covering they can get an exemption card to show when needed. They can request a card from the Disabled Persons Assembly NZ by contacting them on 04 801 9100 or at [email protected]

The Government has Te Tiriti o Waitangi and human rights obligations to protect people’s economic and social rights, as well as their civil and political rights.

Commissioner Tesoriero says the government is obliged to make every possible effort, within available resources, to achieve the right to health for everyone, in a non-discriminatory way, including restricting human rights in a public health emergency.

“Mandating the user of face-coverings is justified as long as restrictions are legal, necessary, reasonable and based on scientific evidence. It is not a breach of one’s human right to be required to wear a face-covering,” says the Disability Rights Commissioner. 

 “Anyone without an exemption should ensure they are wearing a face-covering when they leave home or are at work. We know that face coverings can help reduce the spread of COVID-19.”