A Whanganui woman says for the past few months she has received daily verbal abuse for her choice to wear a mask whenever she is out in public.
Lorina Winsor, who suffers from emphysema, said it was rare for her to leave her house without someone commenting on her mask and it had made her consider leaving Whanganui altogether.
"Through the lockdown levels it wasn't a problem that people were wearing masks, but over the last few months I've had people from off the street telling me to take it off," Winsor said.
"Even when I've gone into the garage, people have said I'm about to rob it.
"I'm just protecting myself and I'm over it. I've had enough of the abuse and the sniggering."
Emphysema is a chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) that is caused by damage to the air sacs in the lungs (alveoli), primarily due to smoking. It results in shortness of breath, a constant cough and, in severe cases, sufferers can find it difficult to do simple things such as dress themselves.
Winsor, who moved to Whanganui from Auckland a year ago to be closer to her mother and to live a "quiet, peaceful life", also wears prescription sunglasses due to her eyes being sensitive to glare.
"Because of my condition I've been in hospital four times since I've been in Whanganui.
"Something like Covid-19 would kill me, so I just want to protect myself.
"I've even had people taking photos of me, and I'm finding myself sitting at home every day because I don't want to go out."
Winsor, a truck driver by trade, said she didn't understand why wearing a mask would be a concern to anybody else.
"I'm not asking for any sympathy or anything, I just want people to get on with their lives so I can get on with mine.
"Get to know me as a person instead. I'm human just like everybody else.
"I just happen to have a health condition and I'm dealing with it the best I can."
Whanganui medical officer of health Dr Patrick O'Connor said the consequences of getting Covid-19 were "so much more" for someone with a disease such as emphysema.
"I'm not aware of any guidelines saying these people need to wear masks, but the more frail your respiratory function, the more you want to protect yourself," O'Connor said.
"Emphysema involves lung damage, and you've lost a bit of your lung structure.
"Even though you've got both lungs there, you might only be functioning with the power of one lung."
O'Connor said he was surprised that Winsor's choice to wear a mask was causing negative reactions, especially because wearing a face covering was compulsory on public transport under New Zealand's current Covid-19 alert level 1 conditions.
"When I'm in Wellington and I get on a bus I've got to remember to bring a mask with me. You get on the train at Levin to get into Wellington, you have to put a mask on as well.
"Perhaps if we were all going around on public transport wearing a mask would seem like a more natural thing to do.
"There's nothing wrong with being extra safe, and I would have thought that 12 months down the track we'd all be a bit more comfortable with [wearing a mask]."