Mask exemptions for runny noses? Really? Yes, really.

This is from the Ministry statement to the media yesterday:

The process for applying for the new exemption card is designed so that it would be hard for someone to get a card dishonestly. For a start, to receive a card, applicants would first need to make a legal declaration that they would meet a range of eligibility criteria. The cards will be anchored to the person’s National Health Index (NHI) number, and will have the person’s name printed on them. This allows for the person’s declaration to be checked in the event that someone complains about presentation of a fraudulently-obtained card.

This new process aim to:

make sure people from already vulnerable communities aren’t further marginalised by imposing a complicated application process on them; but also
give assurance to business owners that someone with an official exemption card has gained one legitimately and has valid reasons for being exempt.

There will also be a legal backing behind the exemption cards. Anyone who fraudulently misuses the application process would be in breach of a COVID-19 Order under the COVID-19 (Public Health Response) Act 2020. If convicted under s26 of that Act, people can be sentenced to up to 6 months imprisonment or a fine of up to $12,000 for an individual or $15,000 for a business.

The vast majority of New Zealanders have already shown they want to do the right thing to protect themselves and their communities, and to support the rights of their fellow Kiwis during the pandemic response. It’s only a small minority who’ve sought to seek to misuse the existing system and it would be extremely disappointing if they chose to do so again.

Use of a fraudulent mask exemption could be reported via https://covid19.govt.nz/news-and-data/report-a-breach/ or NZ Police.