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Charity MADM in Maidstone sticks by ‘no exemption’ mask rule

A charity shop in Maidstone has stuck by its decision to stop anyone not wearing a face mask from entering its store, even if they are exempt.

Making a Difference to Maidstone (MADM), which has a shop in Church Street, says even those with a GP letter will not be allowed in unless their face is covered as a way to protect the charity.

Phil Welbrook reports for KMTV

The controversial new decision has not been welcomed by everyone with some calling the action discrimination.

Joanna Wratten who lives in Brewer Street said she felt embarrassed when she was turned away from the shop she usually visits on a weekly basis.

Miss Wratten has anxiety and asthma and wears a lanyard around her neck to prove she has a medical exemption.

The 45-year-old said: "When I explained I was exempt a member of staff said that it doesn't matter in their shop, and that I must either put on a mask or leave.

"I felt awful and it was embarrassing because when people see you're not wearing a mask, they talk about you and whisper anyway so for him to come and point it out in front of everyone was horrible.

Miss Wratten has a medical exemption
Miss Wratten has a medical exemption

"I wish I could wear a mask but I genuinely can't because it makes me feel so anxious but I still need to get out and about.

"I was so upset I phoned head office and they said to me 'I'm sure everyone can manage to wear a mask for a little while' which I thought was shocking."

When asked about the incident, Amanda Sidwell, the founder of the Christian charity apologised for any upset but said she still sticks by the decision for the sake of the charity.

Mrs Sidwell added: "Anyone entering our premises has to wear face covering, mask, or visor even if exempt, that goes for staff and customers.

"We have already upset and lost some customers for which we can only apologise but this has also affected us.

"We have also temporarily lost some volunteers because they're unable to wear them but we respectfully ask that the public understand why.

"MADM is more than a charity shop and if one of our team is infected then the whole operation shuts down - this is something we do not wish to encounter.

"We have a lot of vulnerable clients and we want to make sure we can be there for everyone when they need us and we can't do that if we're in quarantine."

Mrs Sidwell says she sought advice from Public Health England before introducing the rule and says she was told it was down to each individual businesses' discretion.

However it is not clear from the guidance on its website whether this is the case.

Read more: All the latest news from Maidstone

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