COVID-19 variants get new Greek alphabet names

Gone are the jumble of numbers and letters — COVID-19 variants will now be identified by Greek letters.

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The World Health Organization announced the new names Monday.

The WHO said some scientists said the naming of strains had been complicated. Examples of the naming of the South African variant included alphanumeric strings such as B.1.351, 501Y.V2 and 20H/501Y.V2, Reuters reported.

The WHO has suggested not to use language to describe the virus that profiles people and nationalities.

“No country should be stigmatized for detecting and reporting variants,” WHO epidemiologist Maria Van Kerkove said, according to Reuters.

The UK, South Africa, Brazil and India variants are now being called Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta, in order of when they were discovered, with additional strains following the Greek alphabet. If all of the Greek letters are used, the WHO will announce another series of naming conventions, USA Today reported.

The panel had considered using the names of Greek gods, lost religions, and plants or fruits.

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