Watch: How WHO has relabelled COVID-19 variants

How to read your Alpha, Beta, Kappa the new way

Published: Wednesday 02 June 2021

On May 31, 2021, World Health Organization (WHO) assigned a new set of names for different SARS-CoV-2 variants using greek alphabets. These names have been assigned to those variants that have been identified as ‘variants of interest’ or ‘variants of concern’. The variants documented in India, B.1.617.1 and B1.617.2 have been named Kappa and Delta respectively. 

New names for other variants of concern are: 

  • B.1.1.7 variant documented in the UK is now called the Alpha variant 
  • B.1.351 variant documented in South Africa is termed as Beta Variant 
  • P.1 variant documented in Brazil is termed as Gamma variant 

An expert group consisting of nomenclature and virus taxonomic experts, researchers, and national authorities were consulted for these names. Earlier, media outlets and people often misreport these variants by the places where they are detected. This can lead to the stigmatization and discrimination of that particular region, WHO said.

It encourages national authorities, media outlets, and others to adopt these new names. India had earlier objected to calling the B.1.61.2 as the Indian variant in media reports.

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