Covid: The new names for the variants and why they have been changed

Credit: PA

Covid-19 variants are to be renamed using letters of the Greek alphabet in an attempt to move away from the "stigmatising and discriminatory" use of place names.

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

The Kent variant, for example, has the scientific name B.1.1.7 has become known as Alpha.

  • Why are the Covid variant names changing?

The WHO admitted the scientific names can be "difficult to say and recall" and so have given rise "to calling variants by the places where they are detected, which is stigmatising and discriminatory."

Back in March 2020, the WHO warned about the danger of stigmatisation around the virus, most notably when former president Trump called coronavirus the "China virus."

The WHO's Covid-19 technical lead, Maria Van Kerkhove also tweeted: "No country should be stigmatised for detecting and reporting variants."

She also called for "robust surveillance" of variants, and for the sharing of scientific data to help stop the spread.

Surge testing is currently taking place in Kirklees and Bradford after cases of the Delta variant were found. Credit: PA

While the scientific names for the variants will remain, the WHO has called on governments and the media to adopt the new Greek alphabet names.

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

The new system applies to two different classifications of variants, "variants of concern," potentially the most harmful and second-level "variants of interest."

The variants of concern include:

  • The B.1.617.2 variant, often known as the Indian variant, has been labelled Delta.

  • The 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 B.1.1.7 Kent variant will be known as Alpha.