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Irish taoiseach Leo Varadkar to work a day a week as a doctor

Fine Gael leader was a junior doctor in Dublin and qualified as a GP in 2010

Leo Varadkar visiting the National Virus Reference Laboratory in Dublin






Leo Varadkar visiting the National Virus Reference Laboratory in Dublin.
Photograph: Aidan Crawley/EPA

Leo Varadkar is to work one day a week as a doctor to help combat the coronavirus pandemic after reactivating his medical credentials.

Ireland’s taoiseach has offered his services to the Health Service Executive (HSE) in areas that are within his competence, a spokesperson for his office said on Sunday.

“Dr Varadkar rejoined the medical register last month,” a spokesperson told the Guardian. “He has offered his services to the HSE for one session a week in areas that are within his scope of practice.

“Many of his family and friends are working in the health service. He wanted to help out even in a small way.’

Varadkar, 41, worked as a junior doctor in Dublin and qualified as a GP in 2010 before quitting medicine to become a full-time politician, and later becoming premier.

Last month the HSE appealed to all healthcare professionals who were not already working in the public health service to register to be “on call for Ireland”. Thousands of nurses, doctors, medical students and others have responded, some coming out of retirement, others flying back from abroad.

The Irish Times, which first reported the story, said the taoiseach was understood to be doing phone assessments, in keeping with the protocol to advise people who could be infected over the phone rather than in person.

Varadkar’s father Ashok, an Indian immigrant, was a GP and his mother Miriam was a nurse. His partner Matthew Barrett is a cardiologist.

He has won plaudits from across the political spectrum for his handling of the coronavirus crisis. Ireland adopted early restrictions and appears to have avoided an unmitigated pandemic, though cases are expected to surge this week.

Varadkar succeeded Enda Kenny in 2017 as leader of Fine Gael, a centrist party, and as taoiseach. He earned praise for his handling of the economy and Brexit talks but in a general election in February voters punished the party for failures in housing and healthcare.

Varadkar was expected to run a caretaker administration before leading Fine Gael into opposition. However Sinn Féin, which won more votes than any other party, has not formed a governing coalition. Fine Gael and another centrist party, Fianna Fáil, are in talks to form a historic coalition that would see Varadkar rotate the position of taoiseach with the Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin.

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