Global health leaders have announced new names for Covid-19 variants using letters of the Greek alphabet.
Experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) have developed the labels for variants, which are often colloquially named after the places where they were first discovered.
Many variants of Sars-CoV-2 – the virus that causes Covid-19 – have been identified around the world.
This includes B.1.1.7, which is known in the UK as the Kent variant and worldwide as the UK variant – but is now referred to as Alpha by the WHO.
Variant B.1.617.2, often known as the Indian variant, was called Delta, while B.1.351, often called the South African variant, was called Beta.
The Brazilian variant P.1 was called Gamma.
The WHO said these labels were selected after extensive consultation and a review of many naming systems.
The labels do not replace existing scientific names that convey important scientific information and continue to be used in research.
“While they have their advantages, these scientific names can be difficult to say, remember, and are prone to misinformation,” the WHO said.
“As a result, people often resort to naming variants after the places where they are discovered, which is stigmatizing and discriminatory.
“To avoid this and to facilitate public communication, the WHO is encouraging national authorities, the media and others to adopt these new labels.”
When asked if the government will follow the WHO in describing new coronavirus variants, Economy Secretary Paul Scully told LBC Radio, “I honestly don’t think it’s important one way or the other, but I think we will call it Alpha which is the Kent variant and Delta which started in India.
“That’s not my decision, but I suspect it will be.”