The World Health Organization announced that it will assign Greek alphabet names to new coronavirus variants instead of naming them after their place of origin.
Four variants, currently known as UK/Kent (B.1.1.7), South Africa (B.1.351), Brazil (P.1) and India (B.1.617.2), will now be known by the letters Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta, respectively. The move comes in an effort to avoid stigma toward countries with the specific variants.
New variants detected will be named with following letters of the Greek alphabet.
The WHO said the labels will not replace the variants’ scientific names which include numbers, Roman letters and full stops — all of which remain important and continue to be used for research.
“While they have their advantages, these scientific names can be difficult to say and recall and are prone to misreporting,” the organization said. “As a result, people often resort to calling variants by the places where they are detected, which is stigmatizing and discriminatory.”
“No country should be stigmatized for detecting and reporting variants,” WHO epidemiologist Maria Van Kerkhove said.
The announcement comes as the Indian variant, now known as “Delta,” continues to dominate news headlines and garner social media attention as the country struggles to contain its latest outbreak.
Earlier this month, the Indian government ordered social media platforms to remove content that mentioned the “Indian variant.”
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