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WHO Renames COVID-19 Variants With Greek Letters To Avoid stigma




Coronavirus variants are to be known by letters of the Greek alphabet to avoid misreporting and stigmatising nations where they were first detected, the World Health Organization (WHO) has announced.

The new system applies to variants of concern – the most troubling of which four are in circulation – and the second-level variants of interest being tracked.

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“While they have their advantages, these scientific names can be difficult to say and recall, and are prone to misreporting,” the WHO said in a statement.

“As a result, people often resort to calling variants by the places where they are detected, which is stigmatising and discriminatory.”

The World Health Organisation has renamed the Indian variant, also known as B.1.617.2, the Delta variant.

Under WHO’s new plans, the UK’s Kent strain will also be known as ‘Covid Alpha’ while South Africa’s variant will become ‘Covid Beta’, with the Brazilian variant to be known as ‘Covid Gamma’. 

WHO’s Covid-19 technical lead Maria Van Kerkhove said the change ‘is aimed to help in public discussion’. 

She said: ‘No country should be stigmatized for detecting and reporting variants.

‘The labels are simple, easy to say and remember and are based on the Greek alphabet, a system that was chosen following wide consultation & a review of several potential systems. 

‘They will not replace existing scientific names.’ 

It comes as the WHO, International Monetary Fund, World Bank Group, and World Trade Organisation urged richer countries to give more jabs to poorer nations or risk new variants emerging and forcing future lockdowns.   

The heads of the organisations warned a ‘dangerous gap’ is emerging between richer and poorer nations in the availability of coronavirus vaccines and risks creating a ‘two-track’ pandemic. 

Writing in the Telegraph, they said: ‘Increasingly, a two-track pandemic is developing. Inequitable vaccine distribution is not only leaving untold millions of people vulnerable to the virus, it is also allowing deadly variants to emerge and ricochet back across the world.

‘Even countries with advanced vaccination programmes have been forced to reimpose stricter public health measures. It need not be this way.’ 

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