A man fears his brother who is exempt from wearing a face mask will be subjected to “inevitable abuse and prejudice”.

James O’Rourke, 58, from Chingford, said his brother Tony, 57, has a moderate to severe learning disability which means is he unable to wear a face mask.

Face coverings will be mandatory in shops in England from today (July 24), with exclusions for people with physical or mental illnesses or disabilities.

Mr O’Rourke said his brother's carers have avoided places where he could be challenged, but “by avoiding (them), that is denying him his right to go on public transport”.

He said: “If you can wear a mask, you should wear a mask. However, for those who cannot or will not because of their disability, then we’re just painting a big target on them.”

Read more: Face mask exemption card launches for shoppers: What is it and how to get one

The 58-year-old said it is “great” charities and others have created exemption cards to explain why a mask is not being worn, but he warned: “They’re not official, they’re not endorsed by Government.”

Mr O'Rourke's concerns come as Disability Rights UK charity highlighted “horrific” cases of disabled people being abused. The Government is now being urged to do more to protect people exempt from wearing a face covering.

Fazilet Hadi, a policy manager at Disability Rights UK, said she has already heard several stories of people being confronted on public transport – where masks have been mandatory since June – despite having legitimate reasons for not wearing one.

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Ms Hadi and a number of people exempt from the rules said they fear further abuse as the use of face coverings becomes more widespread.

Ms Hadi called for a Government advertising campaign to raise awareness of the exemptions.

She said: “I’d love to see Government advertising… I’m sure I’m not going to. People really shouldn’t be confronting other people.

“We heard horrific stories from the disability hate crime network about disabled people who’ve already been challenged on public transport.

“We really urge the public to be kind and assume that the people around them aren’t wearing it for a reason.”

A Government spokesperson said “The guidance is absolutely clear that you do not need to wear a face covering if you have a legitimate reason not to, including because of a physical or mental illness or impairment, or disability.

“We expect people to be sensitive to the fact that some groups of people are not able to wear a face covering, and will continue to communicate this message to the general public.”

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