A PENSIONER living with a chronic illness was left feeling upset after he was challenged by a shopper for not wearing a face mask in Tesco.

Michael Penfold has called for more awareness that not everyone is able to wear a face mask, and for some form of identification so people do not assume he is flagrantly breaking the rules.

The 80-year-old was shopping in the Chineham supermarket with his wife June, 75, on Monday morning when he was randomly approached by a fellow customer who asked where his mask was. The incident came just days after he was refused entry to a fish and chip shop in Paignton, Devon, whilst on holiday last week.

The keen gardener, who has won Basingstoke in Bloom five times, lives with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) - a condition that causes breathing difficulty and makes it "impossible" for him to wear a mask.

"I am gasping for air when I put one on," Michael told The Gazette. "I can't wear a mask because I can't breathe."

Whilst people in shops have generally been understand to the Bramley resident, he says that sometimes other shoppers can be less understanding.

"The public are looking at you in a strange way. It makes me feel uptight."

Michael, a former lorry driver who formerly lived in Basingstoke, says he understands that as many people as possible should wear a face covering to help reduce the spread of coronavirus.

However, he says there should be a more organised and official way for people to be able to show they are immune.

"I think they should be sorted at the pharmacies, in the big supermarkets or in local medical centres," he told this newspaper.

"They have got all your details and they should ring you and say we have got an exemption card for you or something."

The wearing of face coverings became mandatory on buses in June, before also being required in shops in July.

The latest government restrictions make it law to wear a face covering in places such as restaurants and bars, when not sat at a table, and in taxis.

The government website lists a number of exemptions, including: "People who cannot put on, wear or remove a face covering because of a physical or mental illness or impairment, or disability."

It goes on to add that the exemption also applies when "putting on, wearing or removing a face covering will cause you severe distress".

The government website also states that "no person needs to seek advice or request a letter from a medical professional about their reason for not wearing a face covering".

However, it does concede that "some people may feel more comfortable showing something that says they do not have to wear a face covering", and offers exemption card templates.

Additionally, Festival Place recognises sunflower lanyards to signify that the wearer is unable to wear a face covering, which can be ordered from the Hidden Disabilities website.

Michael says that he wanted to raise awareness of what happened to him to try and help others in his situation.