Covid-19: WHO renames virus variants with Greek letters

B.1.617, B.1.1.7, B.1.351 … WHO will rename the Covid-19 variants using Greek letters, to simplify their names and avoid references to the countries where they were detected.

The WHO has decided to list the variants of Covid-19 according to a new system based on Greek letters, the organization said in a statement on Monday, May 31. This measure aims to give them names “easy to pronounce and remember”, but also to prevent the general public and the media from using “stigmatizing and discriminatory” names referring to the place where the first cases of the variant were detected. .

In the United States, for example, attacks against people of Asian descent have increased. Donald Trump, who was president during the first year of the pandemic, had done everything to blame China, where the new coronavirus was first detected. He often spoke of the Chinese virus or “Kung Flu” (a pun on flu, which means flu). Congress even adopted a law to better combat the phenomenon, the “Covid-19 Hate Crimes Act”.

Alpha, Beta, Gamma …

Scientific names will continue to exist because they provide useful data to experts, but WHO will no longer use them in its daily communication. And the organization strongly encourages national authorities, the media and others to adopt the new names.

Thus, the variant B.1.1.7, first identified in the United Kingdom , was named Alpha; B.1.351, first identified in South Africa, becomes Beta; and the P.1 variant, detected in Brazil, Gamma.

The WHO has given two different names to the distinct sublines of the B.1.617 variant, which ravaged India and spread to dozens of countries: B.1.617.2 thus becomes Delta, and B.1.617. 1 becomes Kappa.

The pandemic has killed more than 3.5 million people worldwide since the end of December 2019, and the highest contagiousness observed for new variants of the virus is worrying.

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