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WHO switches to Greek alphabet for virus variant names

WHO switches to Greek alphabet for virus variant names

WORLD: COVID-19 variants are to be known by letters of the Greek alphabet to avoid stigmatising nations where they were first detected, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced yesterday (May 31).

ChineseCoronavirusCOVID-19
By AFP

Tuesday 1 June 2021, 09:41AM


A new system using the Greek alphabet for variant names applies to variants of concern and the second-level variants of interest being tracked. Photo: AFP.

A new system using the Greek alphabet for variant names applies to variants of concern and the second-level variants of interest being tracked. Photo: AFP.

The new system applies to variants of concern - the most troubling of which four are in circulation - and the second-level variants of interest being tracked.

“They will not replace existing scientific names, but are aimed to help in public discussion,” said Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s COVID-19 technical lead.

Under the new system, the variants of concern take on the following names: the hitherto so-called British variant B.1.1.7 becomes Alpha; the B.1.351 first discovered in South Africa becomes Beta, while the Brazilian P.1 becomes Gamma.

The so-called Indian variant B.1.617 is split into sub-lineages, of which the B.1.617.2 variant of concern becomes Delta.

The B.1.617.1 variant of interest is called Kappa.

Besides these names, there are two other scientific names in use for each mutation, while different geographic names have been used to describe the same variant.

For example, within Britain, what other countries have been referring to as the British variant is often called the Kent variant - the county in southeast England where it was first discovered.

The lineage names such as B.1.1.7.2 will still continue to be used in scientific circles, for the mutation information that their name conveys.

Stigmatising and discriminatory’

UWC Thailand

“While they have their advantages, these scientific names can be difficult to say and recall, and are prone to misreporting,” the WHO said in a statement.

“As a result, people often resort to calling variants by the places where they are detected, which is stigmatising and discriminatory.

“To avoid this and to simplify public communications, WHO encourages national authorities, media outlets and others to adopt these new labels.”

Earlier this month, US President Joe Biden signed a hate crimes law aimed at protecting Asian Americans who have suffered a surge in attacks during the COVID-19 pandemic.

US anti-extremism groups say the number of attacks and hate crimes against Asian Americans has exploded since the beginning of the crisis.

They lay some of the blame with former president Donald Trump, who repeatedly referred to COVID-19 as the “China virus”.

The WHO has been trying to come up with simplified new nomenclature for the variants for several months.

The Greek alphabet contains 24 letters but there is no plan yet as to where to go next if they are exhausted.

Epsilon, Zeta, Eta, Theta and Iota have already been ascribed to variants of interest.

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Christy Sweet | 01 June 2021 - 20:26:34

WHO report suggests strongly it came from Wuhan Lab workers going into caves to collect bat dung  unprotected, then  they went shopping at the market.. and the rest is history. This new labeling is to appease India which  objected to a new strain that mutated  in India being called the India Variant. 

Kurt | 01 June 2021 - 20:01:42

Donald Trump did call Covid-19 the 'china virus'. That was stigmatising, mend to poke president XIi But the 'world' didn't follow in that 'Trump saying'. That was personal. And we still call it not the 'Wuhan virus', although there is a chance that Covid-19 escaped from a laboratory or a seafood market in Wuhan. Coming years we will learn the truth about it. 

Kurt | 01 June 2021 - 19:51:57

Wow, we go to need a code book to understand worldwide virus happening. Ass the WHO said: These scientific names can be difficult to say and recall, prone to misreporting. Important is that people understand were the virus comes from, and were it will go. Like now there is a Thai variant discovered in UK. The present labeling is not stigmatising/discrirminatory.
Donald Trup did call ..

Foot | 01 June 2021 - 15:48:39

Good idea. We shouldn't hold a country responsible for allowing a new strain. Sure don't want to embarrass them.

 

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