WHO gives new name to worrying COVID-19 variant

The World Health Organization announced the worrisome new names of COVID-19 variants on Monday. To date, these variants have been known by multiple names and numbers.

Therefore, the four variants deemed worthy of attention by the United Nations agencies—often referred to by the public as the first variants discovered in the UK, South Africa, Brazil and India, and sometimes clumsy technical names such as B117 or B1617—will now be According to their detection order, the letters alpha, beta, gamma and delta are given.

The others will continue to be arranged in alphabetical order. Here are the reasons for this move, and the variants that now have the new name:

Why are Greek letters?

Mark Pallen, a bacteriologist who participated in the talks, said that after months of deliberation, experts considered other possibilities—such as the Greek gods and invented pseudo-classical names—and then chose the Greek alphabet.

Historically, viruses are usually associated with the place where they are thought to appear, such as the Ebola virus named after the Congo River.

The World Health Organization uses Greek letters to assign new names to the variants of COVID-19 of concern. (Dennis Barribus/Reuters)

But this may damage the reputation of these places and is usually inaccurate, such as the so-called “Spanish flu” pandemic in 1918, the origin of which is unknown.

WHO epidemiologist Maria Van Kerkhove said: “No country should be stigmatized for discovering and reporting mutations.”

The following is a breakdown of the variants of interest identified so far, based on where the variant was first detected:

United Kingdom-Alpha

The variant first discovered in the UK in September 2020 is First diagnosed in Canada in December 2020. It is called the B117 variant. It has now been designated as Alpha.

It is by far the most common variant in Canada. According to data from the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), the number of confirmed cases is close to 193,000.

South Africa-Beta

The variant B1351 first discovered in South Africa will now be called Beta.it is First discovered in January in Alberta, Canada. It is not common here, with fewer than 1,700 confirmed cases.


The P1 variant first appeared in December 2020. Canada’s first confirmed case was found in Toronto in February.

It is also spreading more widely here, with nearly 12,000 confirmed cases.


The fourth worrying variant given the Greek nickname is B1617, which was first discovered in India in October 2020. First confirmed in a patient in Quebec, Canada in April.

According to PHAC, this variant is the least known. The agency stated that its impact is still being evaluated in Canada, but has now been determined in all 10 provinces and one region.

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