COVID variants indian new names south africa

Photo: Pixabay

‘You can’t call it that!’ – SA, Indian variants given new names by WHO

It’s not the Indian variant, it’s not the South African variant… but the WHO has instead decided to ‘go Greek’ with their new names for COVID mutations.

COVID variants indian new names south africa

Photo: Pixabay

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has moved – perhaps not at lightning speed – to issue some official guidance on the most dangerous ‘variants of concern’. Of course, South Africa has produced one of the more troublesome mutations of the coronavirus, but its new name may now take some of the stigma away from Mzansi.

New names for the South African AND Indian variants

We aren’t going to keep you in suspense, here: Four variants in total have now been renamed after letters in the Greek alphabet. The so-called Indian strain gets split into TWO different monikers – and the UK claims the ‘alpha’ mutation:

  • The South African variant, B.1.351, now becomes Beta
  • The British variant, B.1.1.7, becomes Alpha
  • The Brazilian variant, P.1, becomes Gamma.
  • The Indian variant, B.1.617 is split into sub-lineages, of which the B.1.617.2 variant of concern becomes Delta
  • The B.1.617.1 variant of interest is called Kappa
  • Meanwhile, lineage names such as B.1.1.7, will still continue to be used in scientific circles

WHO aims to remove ‘discrimination’ from mutations

The Greek alphabet contains 24 letters but there is no plan yet as to where to go next if they are exhausted. Epsilon, Zeta, Eta, Theta, and Iota have already been ascribed to strains of interest – which will be revealed in due course. Meanwhile, an official statement from the WHO gives a little more background to their latest linguistic choices:

“While they have their advantages, scientific names can be difficult to recall and are prone to misreporting. As a result, people often resort to calling variants by the places where they are detected, which is stigmatising and discriminatory.”

“To avoid this and to simplify public communications, WHO encourages national authorities, media outlets, and others to adopt these new labels. They will not replace existing scientific names, but are aimed to help in public discussion.”

WHO statement on Monday 31 May