Doctor Varadkar steps up to COVID-19 frontline

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar visiting the National Virus Reference Laboratory in Dublin Ireland, 18 March 2020, where testing for Covid-19 takes place. [EPA-EFE/AIDAN CRAWLEY]

Ireland’s Prime Minister Leo Varadkar is to serve as a doctor in his country’s fight against the ongoing spread of the deadly coronavirus, the leader’s office announced on Sunday evening (6 March).

Varadkar, who after having studied medicine worked as a doctor for seven years prior to entering the world of politics, has re-registered as a medical practitioner.

He will be work one shift a week within Ireland’s Health Service Executive. Varadkar was removed from the medical register in 2013 in order to pursue a path in politics.

The move follows a recent appeal from the HSE for those with professional medical experience to return to the frontline amid the ongoing public health crisis. Reports suggest that approximately 50,000 people have since applied to assist in the efforts to contain the spread of the virus.

The Irish Times, who broke the story, reports that the Prime Minister will be tasked with assisting in assessment of potential coronavirus infectees over the phone. Public health authorities have urged those with symptoms including a feverish temperature and a sustained cough, to first be assessed over the phone rather than in person at medical facilities.

Figures published on Sunday evening by Ireland’s Department of Health shows that a further 21 people have lost their lives after having contracted the novel coronavirus, bringing the total of deaths related to the COVID-19 in the republic to 158.

The number of cases in Ireland remains relatively low at just under 5,000.

Chief Medical Office at the Department of Health, Dr Tony Holohan nevertheless had a stark warning for citizens going forward.

“This past week has proven that the nation is working hard, together, by staying at home to flatten the curve,” he said.

“If you develop symptoms of COVID-19, you need to self-isolate and phone your GP. I ask that everyone inform themselves on what to do in the instance they develop symptoms, as well as how to maintain their health and wellbeing. Support and guidance is available on gov.ie/health and HSE.”

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