By Quaid Najmi
Sindhudurg (Maharashtra), April 21 (IANS) Prime Minister of Ireland, (Dr.) Leo Varadkar on Tuesday issued a special message to the people of the Varad village in Malvan, Sindhudurg district of Maharashtra and the people of India, expressing his concerns as this country grapples with the COVID-19 epidemic.
“Hello, everyone! I want to send this very special message to the people of Varad, Malvan in Maharashtra and everyone across India,” Varadkar said in a warm greeting to the people of his ancestral village which he visited in December 2019.
Drawing comparisons, the Irish Prime Minister said that both the people of India and the people of Ireland are trying to deal with the enormous challenges posed the coronavirus pandemic.
“Like in India, the Irish have been subjected to a lot of restrictions, social restrictions, designed to ensure that the virus doesn’t spread. I know how difficult that is in India as well as Ireland,” said Varadkar, 41.
His cousin Shubhada Varadkar said he regularly keeps enquiring after everybody in the family, his relatives in Varad village and Mumbai.
“He is perhaps the only world leader who is also now a health worker. He consults many patients on phone, anybody in Ireland is free to call him up anytime,” Shubhada Varadkar told IANS.
Admitting that the Covid-19 pandemic is affecting every country, though in different ways, Varadkar said Ireland is ramping up testing, contact tracing, trying to develop new vaccines, new medicines and also making efforts to protect the country’s healthcare staff from getting infected.
“I know this is going to be extra difficult around the world, not only on our health but also on our economy. But history tells us that any plague can be overcome, any pandemic beaten and any virus put back in its box,” asserted Varadkar on an optimistic note.
Another cousin Shekhar Varadkar said that the Irish Prime Minister is well aware of the pandemic situation in India and particularly Maharashtra, which is now the worst-hit state in the country with 232 deaths and 4,666 positive cases.
In comparison, Ireland’s total population is around 6.50 million — around one-third of Mumbai’s 18 million. Until April 20, Ireland notched 687 Covid-19 deaths and 15,652 patients.
Luckily, Sindhudurg district has remained virtually unscathted with only one positive case till date and no casualties.
Undeterred, Prime Minister Varadkar pointed out how global economies, even when they are dealt with a very severe blow, have recovered again “if governments make the right decisions and people work hard”.
“I want you to know that my thoughts and prayers, and those of the people of Ireland are with the people of India as well,” Varadkar concluded on a note of hope.
In the Christmas-New Year week of December 2019, the Irish PM and his family made a private visit to India — sans and VVIP trappings or protocol.
First, he spent a night in Goa and then drove down for his maiden trip to his 80-year old father Ashok Varadkara’s picturesque native village to spend a couple of days there as a commoner in Varad, interacted with the villagers and gorged on the Konkani cuisine.
Varad is close to Goa, around 525 kms south of Mumbai, where the Varadkars enjoyed an extended Christmas and celebrated New Year 2020 in advance with the 3,500 village folk.
Varadkar took over as the 14th Prime Minister or ‘Taoiseach’ of Ireland in June 2017, and for the Covid-19 pandemic, renewed his medical licence to concurrently serve as a healthcare worker.
(Quaid Najmi can be contacted at: [email protected])