Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar is resuming his career as a doctor while continuing as head of government on a rotating basis.
Varadkar, the nation’s first openly gay prime minister, re-registered as a physician last month to help out during the COVID-19 crisis, a spokesperson confirmed to national broadcaster RTE this week. He will take one shift a week, assessing patients by phone to free up others for in-person work.
“Many of his family and friends are working in the health service. He wanted to help out even in a small way,” the spokesperson said.
Varadkar worked as a doctor for seven years but gave up his practice to go into politics. His name was removed from the medical registry in 2013.
He submitted his resignation as prime minister in February after his party, Fine Gael, failed to win a majority in parliamentary elections that month. No other party did either, and Varadkar planned to continue as a caretaker PM until a new government could be formed.
However, he and Michéal Martin of the Fianna Fáil party are negotiating an agreement under which they would take turns serving as prime minister, Irish Central reports. The agreement, which is unprecedented in Irish politics, could be finalized as early as this week, and in any case, Varadkar is remaining in the office during the COVID-19 pandemic. Support for him has increased during the outbreak, according to Irish media.
This week Varadkar criticized the European Union’s response to the crisis as uncoordinated, Euronews reports. “Member states did their own thing because very often they were responding to a pandemic that was happening at a different pace in different countries,” he told the site.
Ireland and several other E.U. member countries are urging a joint issuance of bonds to raise money to offset the economic costs of the pandemic. “This is a symmetric recession — it’s affecting everyone, if ever there was a time for Europe to have a coordinated common response based on solidarity it is now,” Varadkar told Euronews.