World Health Organization renames COVID variants with Greek letters to avoid stigma

BOLTON ENGLAND- MAY 26 People shop and go about their daily life in Bolton town centre as surge testing and rapid coronavirus vaccinations continue

The B.1.617.1 and B.1.617.2 variants of the COVID-19, first identified in India, have been named as "Kappa" and "Delta" respectively, the World Health Organisation (WHO) announced on Monday as it named various variants of the coronavirus using Greek alphabets.

"No country should be stigmatized for detecting and reporting variants".

After India's outbreak of COVID-19 fuelled by the new strain earlier this year, Pakistan in April imposed a ban on travellers arriving from the neighbouring country via the air, sea and land routes, he report said.

As such, the four variants considered of concern by the United Nations agency - and known generally by the public as the variants first identified in the U.K., South Africa, Brazil and India, and by sometimes clunky, technical names such as B117 or B1617 - will now been given the letters alpha, beta, gamma and delta according to the order of their detection. The second, which turned up in South Africa and has been referred to as B.1.351, will be known as the "beta" variant.

The variant first found in Brazil in the November of 2020 (P.1) will now be known as "Gamma". The new nomenclature follows widespread objections over the unofficial naming of Covid variants after the countries from where they first originated.

"While they have their advantages, these scientific names can be hard to say and recall, and are prone to misreporting".


Globally, systems have been established and are being strengthened to detect signals of potential variants of concern (VOC) and interest (VOI) and assess these based on the risk posed to global public health.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has moved - perhaps not at lightning speed - to issue some official guidance on the most risky "variants of concern".

The WHO said this was to simplify discussions but also to help remove some stigma from the names.

"To avoid this and to simplify public communications, World Health Organization encourages national authorities, media outlets, and others to adopt these new labels".

"The labels don't replace existing scientific names, which convey important scientific information and will continue to be used in research". "I think that's totally wrong and I think we should avoid that", said Catalina Lopez-Correa.

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