Covid-19 Variants Will Be Called Greek Names Like Alpha & Delta, No More UK Or India

WHO Renames Covid-19 Variants With Greek Letters Like Alpha, Beta & Delta

Trudging through a raging pandemic takes a toll on people’s mental well-being as citizens worldwide enter panic mode.

People have channelled their fear of Covid-19 variants towards nations that first reported them, resulting in ugly attacks.

Therefore, to end uncalled-for stigmatisation, the World Health Organization (WHO) has announced to rename the coronavirus variants.


From now on, the WHO will use Greek letters to refer to Covid-19 variants first detected in various countries.

This means that moving away from the ‘Indian variant’ or ‘UK variant’, we’ll use ‘Delta’ or ‘Alpha variant’ instead.

Covid-19 variants will have Greek names

Issuing a statement on Monday (31 May), the WHO announced a new naming system for Covid-19 variants.

The variant that surfaced first in India is now called the ‘Delta variant’, and the strain from the UK is now the ‘Alpha variant’.

However, their scientific names, such as ‘B1617.2’, will prevail in professional discourse.

Below is a table of the current Covid-19 Variants of Concern (VOC) listed by the WHO and their new Greek names.

The new naming system features easy-to-pronounce Greek letters that make references to the variants in public discussions simpler.

But more importantly, it helps fight stigmas against nations where a variant is first discovered.

Decision amid global racist attacks

Referring to the new naming system on Twitter, WHO’s Technical Lead Ms Kerkhove, writes “No country should be stigmatised for detecting and reporting variants.”


The organisation’s timely move comes amid slews of attacks targeting people of specific race or nationalities worldwide.

Back in Mar 2020, when the world referred to Covid-19 as the ‘Wuhan virus’, a Singaporean-Chinese student fell victim to a brutal assault in London.

This year, the US has seen a rise in attacks of Asians as many buy into Covid-19’s affiliation with China, which reported instances of it first.

Amongst the victims is a 76-year-old ah ma in San Francisco, who was punched in the face, unprovoked.

Then it hit close to home. In May 2021, a man hurled racial slurs and kicked the chest of a woman of Indian descent in Singapore.

Man Allegedly Kicks & Hurls Racial Slurs At Exercising Woman, 30-Year-Old Man Arrested

Dubbing the more infectious B1617.2 strain the ‘Indian variant’ undoubtedly didn’t help. If anything, it provided an excuse for some to justify their biases and racism.

Welcome new naming system with open arms

Therefore, WHO’s move to adopt a new naming system is both prompt and salient.

While the world grapples with Covid-19, let us remember that no one, regardless of race or nationality, wants to have anything to do with the virus.

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Featured image adapted from Reuters via South China Morning Post.

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