Global health leaders have announced new “easy-to-pronounce” names for Covid-19 variants using letters from 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.
Tory Minister Paul Scully said the UK government is likely to start using the newly recommended names.
He told LBC, “The thing about the names is that they were first identified there, but that doesn’t mean they are from that area.
“And I think it doesn’t matter, honestly, but I think we’re going to call it Alpha, which is the Kent variant, and Delta, as you say, which is the variation that started in India.”
When asked if the government would officially change its naming policy, he replied, “It’s not my choice, but I suspect it will.”
WHO said, “While they have their advantages, these scientific names can be difficult to say and remember, and are prone to misreporting.
“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, WHO is encouraging national authorities, the media and others to adopt these new labels.”
Health officials hope the new names, which are easy to say and remember, will help public debate, Sky News reports.
The Brazilian P.1 variant will now become Gamma under the new naming system.
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.