UK Government will switch to Covid variant names based on Greek alphabet, says minister

·2-min read
<p>Coronavirus</p> (PA Archive)

Coronavirus

(PA Archive)

The UK Government is likely to switch to describing Covid variants after letters of the Greek alphabet, a minister has said.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has announced that variants will have their names changed amid concerns the original system was “stigmatising and discriminatory.”

Under the system, the UK variant first detected in Kent in September last year will be referred to as ‘Alpha’, the Indian variant ‘Delta’ and the South African variant ‘Beta’. The Brazilian variant has been labelled ‘Gamma’.

Small Business minister Paul Scully told LBC’s Nick Ferrari he thinks the Government will shift to using the new system.

He said: “I assume that is the case…the thing is about the names it’s where they were first identified but it doesn’t mean it comes from that area.

“I don’t think it matters either way frankly but I think we will be calling it Alpha which is the Kent variant and Delta which is the variation which started in India.”

Pressed on whether the Government would adopt it, he replied: “That’s not my decision but I suspect that will be the case.”

The WHO said the labels were chosen after wide consultation and a review of many naming systems. Bacteriologist Mark Pallen, who was involved in the talks, said Greek Gods were considered during the deliberations.

The labels will not replace the existing scientific names such as B.1.1.7 - which refers to the UK’s Kent variant.

"While they have their advantages, these scientific names can be difficult to say and recall, and are prone to misreporting," the WHO said.

"As a result, people often resort to calling variants by the places where they are detected, which is stigmatising and discriminatory.

"To avoid this and to simplify public communications, WHO encourages national authorities, media outlets and others to adopt these new labels."

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