The World Health Organization (WHO) has announced what it called “easy-to-say” Greek labels for coronavirus variants, set to replace designations based on the country of origin. Munia Iffat reports.

  • The World Health Organization unveiled on Monday a new naming system for COVID-19 variants that uses letters from the Greek alphabet.
  • Health officials have been concerned that the strains' scientific names, comprising number and letters, are leading people to refer to them by the place they were detected, such as the "UK variant" for B.1.1.7, which the WHO notes in a Twitter post  "is stigmatizing & discriminatory."
  • In a statement, the WHO's COVID-19 technical lead Maria Van Kerkhove said on Monday, "No country should be stigmatized for detecting and reporting variants."
  • The move comes amid growing outrage from India because of the outline of B.1.617 viral mutation as the “Indian variant.” 
  • Last month India’s Health Ministry argued that the label liberally used across the media was “misleading” since the WHO didn’t designate the mutant strain intrinsically.
  • While another commentator noted that there’s already an existing classification of human coronaviruses,   where they are divided into alpha, beta, gamma, and delta sub-groupings, arguing that the WHO rebranding will only add to the confusion.

Meanwhile, some observers argued that the Greek labels might not be so easy to memorize. Others pointed out that the WHO risks running out of letters at some point since the Greek alphabet contains only 24 letters.