• Fri. Jan 21st, 2022

Covid variants, from Alpha to Delta: WHO renames them with the Greek alphabet

Byeditorial

May 31, 2021

Code name: Alpha. Behind this letter there is not a secret agent, but the new ‘identity’ of the English variant of Sars-CoV-2 (B.1.1.7). The South African (B.1.351) is now Beta. The Brazilian (P.1) Gamma. One of the sub-variants of the Indian one (B.1.617.2) is Delta. These are the new labels assigned by the World Health Organization (WHO), which has decided to ‘rename’ the variants – both those classified as ‘worrying’ (Voc) and those of interest (You) – using the letters of the alphabet Greek. Reason for the choice? Have labels “simple, easy to quote and remember for the key variants of the virus that causes Covid-19”, explains the UN health agency, informing about the news. “These labels were chosen after extensive consultation and a review of many potential naming systems.” WHO has convened a select group of partners from around the world to do so, including experts dealing with existing naming systems, experts in the nomenclature and taxonomy of viruses, researchers and national authorities. “These labels – it is specified – do not replace existing scientific names (eg those assigned by the Gisaid, Nextstrain and Pango organizations), which convey important scientific information and will continue to be used in research. ” But these scientific names, WHO notes, “can be difficult to pronounce and remember and are prone to inaccuracies in the way they are reported.” The letters of the Greek alphabet with which they are renamed also have another mission: to try to untie the variant from its geographical location. Precisely because of the difficulty of using numerical codes, “people often resort to the choice of calling the variants based on the places in which they are detected, which is stigmatizing and discriminatory – observes the WHO – To avoid this and to simplify public communications,” WHO encourages national authorities, the media and everyone to adopt these new labels “.

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