WHO’s Using Greek Alphabet in Naming COVID-19 Variants to Avoid Stigma

The key coronavirus variants were assigned new “labels” Monday by the World Health Organization (WHO) referring to them by letters of the Greek alphabet instead of the country where the variant was first detected, CNN reports.

Geneva-based global health agency pointed that no country should be stigmatised for detecting and reporting variants since the global, robust surveillance for variants is highly necessary.

As Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s technical COVID-19 lead, explained Monday, the new naming system is used for the WHO’s Variants of Interest (less serious) and Variants of Concern (more alarming) using new, easy-to-say labels for SARSCoV2 variants.

WHO now calls the UK variant (B.1.1.7) Alpha, the South African variant (B.1.351) is Beta, the Indian variant has been dubbed the Delta variant and the so-called South African variant, known by scientists as B.1.351, is now called the Gamma variant.

Variants of interest have been given labels from “Epsilon” to “Kappa.”

Greek alphabet letters to refer to variants were recommended by WHO expert panel who believes it will be easier and more practical to discuss by non-scientific audiences, but will not replace existing scientific names for coronavirus variants.

According to WHO’s announcement, scientific names will continue to be used in research where they have their advantages, but people often resort to calling variants by the places where they are detected- which is stigmatizing and discriminatory- because scientific names can be difficult to pronounce and recall and are prone to misreporting.

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