What are the WHO’s new names for the Covid variants?

What are the WHO’s new names for the Covid variants?
Variations to be renamed after letters of the Greek alphabet to avoid fostering prejudice

As new coronavirus variants continue to spring up across the globe, the World Health Organisation (WHO) moved this week to rename them according to letters of the Greek alphabet.

It is feared that allowing the new strains to become known by the geographical location where they were first detected, as they have been so far – the Indian variant, for instance – risks inspiring misdirected acrimony and prejudice.

“No country should be stigmatised for detecting and reporting variants,” said WHO epidemiologist Maria Van Kerkhove.

Former US president Donald Trump, members of his administration like secretary of state Mike Pompeo and their supporters spent much of last year maliciously referring to Covid-19 by Sinophobic slurs such as “the China virus” and “the Wuhan flu” in order to scapegoat the rival superpower for the worldwide disaster, drawing accusations of racism at home and abroad.

“Political parties and groups… have latched onto the Covid-19 crisis to advance anti-immigrant, white supremacist, ultra-nationalist, antisemitic, and xenophobic conspiracy theories that demonise refugees, foreigners, prominent individuals, and political leaders,” said Human Rights Watch.

Referring to the strains by their scientific designations like B.1.1.7 was deemed to be complicated so, to sidestep the problem of such politically-loaded terms prevailing, the WHO has introduced the following new naming system:

  • Brazil variant (P.2) – Zeta
  • Kent variant (B.1.1.7) – Alpha
  • Indian variant (B.1.617.1) – Kappa
  • Indian variant (B.1.617.2) – Delta
  • US variant (B.1.427/B.1.429) – Epsilon
  • US variant (B.1.526) – Iota
  • Nigerian variant (B.1.525) – Eta
  • Philippines variant (P.3) – Theta
  • South African variant (B.1.351) – Beta

“Covid-19 does not care who we are, where we live, or what we believe,” said UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres in a tweet.

“Yet the pandemic continues to unleash a tsunami of hate and xenophobia, scapegoating and scare-mongering.

“That’s why I’m appealing for an all-out effort to end hate speech globally.”