Alpha, beta, gamma … why have the Covid-19 variants changed their names?

Break away from the scientific names of variants, and no longer use discriminating names. These are the objectives of the WHO, which has decided to give names of Greek letters to the variants of Covid-19. The idea is to have names “easy to pronounce and remember”, but also to prevent the general public and the media from using names “stigmatizing and discriminatory” referring to the place where the first cases of the variant were detected, explained the World Health Organization (WHO) on Monday in a statement.

Scientific names will continue to exist, as they provide useful data to experts, but WHO will no longer use them in its daily communication. And the organization strongly encourages national authorities, the media and others to adopt the new names.

Thus, the variant B.1.1.7, first identified in the United Kingdom, was named Alpha; B.1.351, first identified in South Africa, becomes Beta; and the P.1 variant, detected in Brazil, Gamma. The WHO has given two different names to the distinct sublines of the B.1.617 variant, which ravaged India and spread to dozens of countries: B.1.617.2 thus becomes Delta, and B.1.617. 1 becomes Kappa.

As a reminder, in the United States for example, attacks against people of Asian origin have increased since the onset of the pandemic, Donald Trump, who was president in his early days, having done everything to blame the China, where the new coronavirus was first detected. He often spoke of the Chinese virus or “Kung Flu” (a pun on “flu”, which means flu). The South Korean K-pop group BTS also denounced last March the racism suffered by the Asian community in the United States.

In France, during his greetings to the Franco-Asian community pronounced on February 12, 2021, President Emmanuel Macron emphasized the “blind hatred” that the Asian community has suffered since the appearance of the coronavirus.

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