Coronavirus: WHO announces Greek alphabet naming scheme for variants

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An illustration of a coronavirus

An illustration of a coronavirus

Alissa Eckert, MSMI; Dan Higgins

THE World Health Organization (WHO) has announced a naming system for variants of the coronavirus that uses letters of the Greek alphabet.

Under the new naming scheme, the B.1.1.7 variant first identified in the UK, commonly referred to as the Kent variant, is labelled “alpha”, the B.1.351 variant identified in South Africa is “beta”, the P.1 variant which first originated in Brazil is “gamma” and the B.1.617.2 variant first detected in India is “delta”. These Greek letter labels will only be given to “variants of concern” and “variants of interest” as defined by the WHO.

Researchers had been calling for an alternative naming system for coronavirus variants for some time, arguing that the…

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