WHO uses Greek letters for Covid variants to avert stigmatisation

The four coronavirus variants known generally by the public as the UK, South Africa, Brazil and India variants have now been given the letters Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta

A worker in a lab holds a vacutainer
The World Health Organisation has created a new system to name Covid-19 variants, getting away from place-based names that can be hard to pronounce, difficult to remember, and stigmatise a specific country. File picture: Polina Tankilevitch/Pexels

PRETORIA, June 1 (ANA) – The World Health Organisation has created a new system to name Covid-19 variants to avoid misreporting and stigmatising nations where they were first detected, the World Health Organisation (WHO) announced on Twitter on Monday.

According to Al Jazeera, the four coronavirus variants known generally by the public as the UK, South Africa, Brazil and India variants, have now been given the letters Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta according to the order of their detection.

“The labels don’t replace existing scientific names, which convey important scientific information and will continue to be used in research,” WHO’s technical lead Maria Van Kerkhove wrote on Twitter.

“These labels will help with public discussion about VOC/VOI as the numbering system can be difficult to follow.

“The labels for VOI/VOC are simple, easy to say & remember & are based on the Greek alphabet, a system that was chosen following wide consultation & a review of several potential system.”

According to USA Today, the new WHO naming system was created in collaboration with experts and researchers who have been monitoring and assessing the evolution of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes Covid-19.

“It’s the right thing to do,” the online publication cited Dr Monica Gandhi, an infectious disease expert at the University of California, San Francisco.

Ghandi was also cited saying that the move may also make countries more open to reporting new variants if they’re not afraid of being forever associated with them in the mind of the public.

Britain’s Guardian newspaper reported that historically, diseases have frequently been named after the locations they were thought to have developed, such as the Ebola virus, which takes its name from the Congolese river. However, such associations can be damaging for those places and are often inaccurate, as is the case with the 1918 Spanish flu, whose origins are unknown.

– Africa News Agency (ANA); Editing by Naomi Mackay

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