Covid-19 variants are to be known by letters of the Greek alphabet, in a bid to remove the stigma from strains that are leading to a rise in infections, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced on Monday.
The new system applies to variants of concern, “which will be easier and more practical” for non-scientific audiences.
Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, the World Health Organization’s technical lead for coronavirus response, said that “no country should be stigmatised for detecting and reporting variants.”
She said the new labels for the variants of concern are “simple, easy to say and are based on the Greek alphabet, a system that was chosen following wide consultation and a review of several potential systems.”
Under the new system, the variants of concern take on the following names:
- The variant first reported in England (B.1.1.7) is renamed ‘Alpha’
- The variant originating in South Africa (B.1.351) is called ‘Beta’
- The Brazilian variant (P.1) is now ‘Gamma’
- The Indian B.1.617.2 variant of concern becomes ‘Delta’
- The Indian B.1.617.1 variant of interest is called ‘Kappa’
Other variants of interest continue down the Greek alphabet.
The WHO’s established system for naming and tracking the variants will remain in place for the scientific community which will continue to use the nomenclature system based on the virus’ genetic lineages.