The World Health Organization (WHO) has decided to rename the known variants of the SARS-Cov-2 virus using Greek letters, in a move to avoid biases against people from specific parts of the world, it was announced.
The decision came after criticism of the way they have been named up until now. The variants have either been titled by their scientific name, making them hard to differentiate, or by their place of origin which many scholars argue could stigmatize countries where the strains were first discovered.
There have been attacks against Chinese people, and the increased expansion of the so-called Indian variety could feed hatred towards citizens from that nation, the WHO feared.
On the other hand, the scientific names which look like; B.1.1.7, B.1.617.2, B.1.351 were simply considered too difficult to recall or tell apart.
“It remains quite strange to this day why variants have only been singled out in a specific group of countries – namely those which are undisputably world powers such as the United States and the United Kingdom or those who threaten that superiority,” a scientist was quoted as saying on condition of anonimity. “Of the group of nations known as BRICS, only Russia lacks its own strain. Brazil, India, China and South Africa already have theirs,” he added. Philippines would be the only non-world power with its own version of the coronavirus.
The new system is applied to the variants of greatest interest -the most worrisome four in circulation- and the second-level variants of interest in the process of monitoring, the WHO explained.
They will not replace existing scientific names, but are intended to aid public discussion, said WHO's technical manager for Covid-19 Maria Van Kerkhove,.
With the new system the now called British (or Kent) variant, B.1.1.7, becomes Alpha; B.1.351 discovered in South Africa will be Beta; the Brazilian P.1 (Manaus) will be Gamma. The so-called Indian variant is B.1.617 is subdivided into several sublineages, of which the variant of interest B.1.617.2 now becomes Delta, while B.1.617.1 becomes Kappa.
The new names are as follows:
• UK (Kent) / B.1.1.7 - Alpha
• South Africa / B.1.351 - Beta
• Brazil (Manaus) / P.1 - Gamma
• India / B.1.617.1 – Kappa
• India / B.1.617.2 – Delta
• US / B.1.427 / B.1.429 - Epsilon
• Philippines / P.3 – Theta