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Covid-19 variants to be named using Greek alphabet




Covid-19 strains have been given new names using letters of the Greek alphabet.

It's feared location-based names will result in stigmatisation.

Experts working with the World Health Organisation (WHO) have developed the labels for variants, which are often colloquially named after the places where they are first detected.

The decision has been made to tackle the stigma that surrounds location-named strains Stock picture: UK MoD
The decision has been made to tackle the stigma that surrounds location-named strains Stock picture: UK MoD

The B.1.1.7 variant was first detected in Kent and has since been known in the UK as the Kent variant, while elsewhere in the world it is known as the UK variant.

But it has now labelled by the WHO as Alpha.

Many variants of Sars-CoV-2 - the virus that causes Covid-19 - have been identified around the world.

The B.1.617.2 variant, often know as the Indian variant, has been labelled Delta. Meanwhile B.1.351, often referred to as the South African variant, has been named Beta.

The P.1 Brazilian variant has been labelled Gamma.

The WHO says these labels were chosen after wide consultation and a review of many naming systems.

The organisation said the labels do not replace existing scientific names, which convey important scientific information and will continue to be used in research.

A spokesman said: “While they have their advantages, these scientific names can be difficult to say and 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.”

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