The labels will not replace existing scientific names but are designed to make discussions easier and remove stigma. Image Credit: Grafissimo/Getty Images

Health Switzerland5. June 2021

No More Discriminating Nicknames for Coronavirus

The World Health Organization (WHO) has decided to identify Corona variants with Greek letters instead of the country where they were first discovered to simplify discussions and get rid of the stigma around the names.

“No country should be stigmatized for detecting and reporting variants,” says the WHO’s Covid-19 technical lead, Maria Van Kerkhove. “We’re not saying ‘replace B.1.1.7,’ but really just to try to help some of the dialogue with the average person, so that in public discourse, we could discuss some of these variants in more easy-to-use language.”

The new naming system for Covid-19 variants works as follows: the UK variant is labeled Alpha, and the South African one, Beta. The variant B.1.617.2 had been dubbed the “Indian variant”, even though it had never been identified as such by the WHO. It now bears the Greek letter Delta. A complete list of names is available on the WHO website.


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