Some shops and retailers are witnessing "full-scale shouting matches and mayhem" because of refusal by some customers to wear a face mask, it has been claimed.
The problem has now reached breaking point for around 1,500 retailers, convenience and newsagents, a letter to Health Minister Stephen Donnelly has warned.
Vincent Jennings, chief executive of their representative association, the Convenience Stores and Newsagents Association, said the issue is not with those who genuinely cannot wear a mask but to a minority who have an objection to the law making them mandatory.
In a letter to the minister, he said: "I have engaged repeatedly with your department to highlight what we consider to be an unnecessary provision of a category of people permitted not to wear a face covering- those that self-declare to suffer 'extreme distress'".
He said: "The provision for exclusion of mandatory wearing of a face covering for disabilities, both physical and mental conditions are perfectly understandable, as is an age limit, but the 'extreme distress' provision is totally unacceptable given the fact that it is being utilised by 'non-maskers' to enter our premises and demand service.
"I have asked your officials on three separate occasions to advise if they consider that those using extreme distress as a reason not to wear a face covering could not be considered to have a claim for compensation on grounds of disability, whether by way of refusal of entry or refusal of service.
"This provision is not necessary, is divisive, and should be removed from the statutory instrument."
He suggested it may be necessary to consider asking people with genuine medical reasons who cannot wear a mask to carry some type of externally provided certification, similar to the badge used by disabled drivers to signify their entitlement to avail of preferential parking and access facilities. He said the refusals are causing a risk to other customers and staff.
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