Tory government has ‘forgotten’ about LGBT+ community during pandemic, warns former key adviser

Boris Johnson in the government briefing room

Former LGBT+ adviser Catherine Meads has urged the UK government to track the impact of COVID-19 on the queer community, which she says has been “forgotten”.

Meads, who was a member of the government’s recently disbanded LGBT Advisory Panel, told The Independent she was concerned about the lack of data on the health impact the pandemic has had on the LGBT+ community. She said the analysis of the health impact “has not been done”, and it “should have been done”.

Meads, who is a professor of health at Anglia Ruskin University, said the LGBT+ community has “just been forgotten about”. She highlighted equalities minister Kemi Badenoch’s previous statement that the government has “not found that LGBT+ groups specifically have been disproportionately affected”.

But Meads argued that people are taking Badenoch’s comments as a sign that “there isn’t a problem”.  Meads said Badenoch was “conflating no problem with no data” because she said “there’s no data to show” the impact of COVID-19 on the LGBT+ community.

Meads: “And I think there is a problem. I think from the LGBT+ perspective, we’ve suffered from this for years and years and years, where people have assumed all sorts of things to do with the health of the LGBT+ population without checking the data out.”

The Independent then asked Meads what message she would send to the government. Meads said: “Can we please have some data?”

A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) told The Independent that COVID-19 has “affected the lives of everyone in the UK”, with a “disproportionate impact on certain groups of people”. The spokesperson added that the UK government is “continually” monitoring this impact by “reviewing and collecting a wide range of data”.

The DHSC spokesperson told PinkNews that Public Health England led a rapid review to understand how different factors like ethnicity, age, gender and obesity could impact how people are affected by COVID-19. While the review did not collect data on sexual orientation or ‘trans status’, the spokesperson said the government will continue to monitor the pandemic’s impact on LGBT+ people.

Across the pond, the US has been gathering data on the impact of COVID-19 on the LGBT+ community. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report in February that suggested people who are part of the LGBT+ community may be more vulnerable to getting COVID-19.

The CDC report found LGBT+ people have higher rates of self-reported underlying conditions associated with severe COVID-19 outcomes than their heterosexual counterparts. This included asthma, cancer, heart disease, obesity and stroke.

The report also concluded that LGBT+ experience stigmatisation and discrimination that can “increase vulnerabilities to illness and limit the means to achieving optimal health and wellbeing”.

Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement that the CDC report “affirms what LGBTQ advocates and organisations have known all along” – that “our community is at greater risk and disproportionately affected” by COVID-19.