WHO switches to Greek alphabet for coronavirus variant names

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

"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.

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

Besides "Delta", more variants that have been found in different parts of the world have been given new names amid debacle over the correct naming of variants, without attributing it to a particular region or country, which WHO had earlier warned could invite stigmatisation.

The sequencing results confirmed the detection of seven cases of B.1.351 [South African variant] and one case of B.1.617.2 [first identified in India].

On May 12, the ministry dismissed as "without any basis and unfounded" media reports that have used the term "Indian variant" for the B.1.617 mutant strain, which the World Health Organization recently said was a "variant of global concern".

The World Health Organisation has assigned new names for key variants of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, using letters of the Greek alphabet. The new nomenclature follows widespread objections over the unofficial naming of Covid variants after the countries from where they first originated.

India registered record deaths due to Covid exactly a week back with 4,529 deaths - the highest number of fatalities from Covid infection in any country since the coronavirus outbreak was reported in China's Wuhan in December 2019. "As such, we are classifying this as a variant of concern at the global level", it had said.

The "Indian" variant of COVID-19 will now be known as "Delta" under a new system adopted by the WHO.

The group recommended using letters of the Greek Alphabet - Alpha, Beta, Gamma, which will be easier and more practical to discussed by non-scientific audiences.

The WHO had then that it did not identify viruses or variants with names of countries where they were first reported. "We know that there's already backlash in India, regarding the Indian variant and people mentioning it that way", Dr Adalja said.

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