Mask Exemption for People with Disabilities
In general, the law requires face masks to be worn in order to prevent COVID-19 infection and contagion in enclosed spaces, and anyone who violates this requirement may be fined. Yet, the law also provides for an exemption from mask-wearing for those who are unable or have difficulties in wearing masks due to disabilities: (clause 3H(b)(2) of Public Health Order (Novel Coronavirus)).
The law does not oblige a person entitled to an exemption to present medical documents to prove their eligibility. In the absence of a uniform and clear directive determining how to proceed in the event that a person claims an exemption, all public bodies and businesses set forth their own rules regarding the matter as they see fit. Offices and public service providers, such as Social Service bureaus and the Israel Employment Service, sometimes refuse to provide services to people with disabilities who are not wearing masks, disregarding claims that they are entitled to an exemption. Business owners concerned about fines and security guards stationed at entrances to public places, sometimes deny entry to people without masks. In many cases, especially those wherein the disability is not visibly apparent, the person is required to present documents to prove their medical condition.
Moreover, there is no directive regarding binding wording in confirming one’s eligibility for exemption, such that even physicians requested to issue such certificates cannot guarantee documents that will be accepted and honored by various authorities. As a result, those eligible for exemption are compelled to carry and present detailed medical documents to those who demand them, the presentation of which gravely violates their right to privacy.
It is important to emphasize that no police officer, inspector, public servant, or any other individual, has the authority to require one to present medical documents when this obligation is not stipulated by law. Obliging an individual to present medical documents violates their fundamental rights to privacy and medical confidentiality.
We appealed to the Director General of the Ministry of Health to clarify this legal situation, publish binding guidelines on the matter, and ensure that they are enforced. In response to our request, the Ministry of Health noted that there is no obligation to present medical documents or disclose personal information to prove eligibility for exemption, and that eligibility for exemption remains at the discretion of the claimant.