A woman with epilepsy was left ‘humiliated’ when a bus driver refused to drive if she didn’t wear a face mask, before allegedly shouting: ‘It’s people like you who spread coronavirus’.
Karrine, 27, from Manchester, is exempt from wearing face coverings, having suffered seizures with them on in the past.
The mum-of-one, who has been signed off work with her medical condition, claims a Diamond bus driver demanded to know why she was medically exempt and accused her of ‘taking the mick’ when she showed him her repeat prescription. Following a heated argument, he allegedly kicked all passengers off the bus, telling them they’d have to catch the next one.
Karrine has struggled to leave the house after the incident and wants it to act as ‘an example’ to others who target people with medical exemptions during the Covid-19 crisis.
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Speaking to Metro.co.uk, Karrine said: ‘I have seizures where you won’t even notice that I’m having one. It will be quiet so wearing a face mask can stop the oxygen so I’m not able to talk during a seizure. I get a lot of anxiety and distress wearing one.
‘It was just horrible to have to try and prove myself and be humiliated like that. My medical condition wasn’t something I wanted broadcasting and then to be challenged by someone. He made me feel stupid.’
Karrine was forced to give up her driving licence due to epilepsy, meaning public transport is her only way of getting around.
She attempted to flag down the 163 bus to Manchester Piccadilly after dropping off her daughter, 1, off at her grandma’s house at around 5.30pm on October 12.
The driver ‘looked like he was going to drive past’ before he eventually stopped. He then kept the doors closed and gestured to ask where her mask was.
Karrine asked him to open the doors and showed her exemption pass but claims he asked: ‘What are you exempt from? What’s your medication condition?’
Those who are exempt from wearing face coverings should not be asked to give evidence, according to Government guidelines.
When Karrine told the driver he wasn’t allowed to question her, he allegedly accused her of ‘taking the mick’.
She said: ‘He told me “it’s been proven wearing a face mask doesn’t affect medical conditions. To travel, you should wear a face mask”.
‘I was like “excuse me?” And he goes “yeah, you’re taking the mick”. He’d stopped driving and he was there parked at the bus stop with everyone on the bus listening.’
The driver eventually set off after Karrine showed her repeat prescription. However, she claims he continued to yell at her, saying: ‘It’s people like you who spread coronavirus.’
After a man who was also exempt from wearing a mask stepped in to defend Karrine, the driver allegedly began shouting at him too.
The Diamond employee had let two other people onboard before ‘without masks or demanding to know their medical condition’, according to Karrine.
After noticing the two other people were white, she decided to ask the driver if he had targeted her because of her race. He then pulled over the bus and told her to get off, claiming she had called him ‘racist’.
After Karrine refused to leave, the driver packed up his things and left the bus unattended to sit at the bus stop across the road.
Karrine said: ’He looked like he was on the phone and then he came back and said “you’re all going to have to get on another bus”.’
The mum-of-one claims the experience left her nervous to leave the house, saying: ‘I shouldn’t have to feel like that.’
She said: ’All I want is this to be an example for other drivers. I’m not praying he loses his job, nothing like that. I just want something to be done, some kind of discipline so that no one tries this with somebody else who is less able to challenge the driver.’
She added: ‘It was just me who he had a problem with initially so it could have been anything. I’m saying it was mainly discrimination against my medical condition but if you think I’m spreading coronavirus by not wearing a mask, be consistent. Why didn’t you say it to the other people not wearing masks? Why just me?’
An investigation into the alleged incident has since been launched by Diamond Buses.
Customer Experience Manager Tony Clegg said: ‘An internal investigation has taken place into the alleged incident after receiving a complaint from a customer. The company treats these kind of complaints very seriously.
‘The company has worked hard over the last six months and continues to do so with our driving staff to align with the government guidelines and encourage customers to wear face coverings where there is no exemption in place and also continue to work with TfGM and the Travel Safe Unit across Greater Manchester doing events to highlight the need for bus passengers to wear face coverings unless exempt.’
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