WHO Renames COVID Variants, Calling National Labels ‘Stigmatizing’

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The World Health Organization said Monday that it will apply a new system for labeling notable variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the virus that causes COVID-19. The agency will utilize the Greek alphabet to name what it considers to be “Variants of Interest or Variants of Concern” rather than refer to them by the country where the strain was first discovered.

STAT reports that, under this new naming system, “B.1.1.7, the variant first identified in Britain, will be known as Alpha and B.1.351, the variant first spotted in South Africa, will be Beta. P.1, the variant first detected in Brazil, will be Gamma and B.1.671.2, the so-called Indian variant, is Delta.”

The WHO noted in a press release that because scientific names are often harder to remember and differentiate between, “people often resort to calling variants by the places where they are detected, which is stigmatizing and discriminatory.” The Greek letters will not take the place of the scientific names which contain important scientific information, but they will make it easier to discuss the variants with the public.

WHO Renames COVID Variants, Says Country Names Cause Stigma