COVID-19 variants get new names based on Greek alphabet

Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

The World Health Organization (WHO) has announced a new naming system for notable variants of virus that causes COVID-19 based on letters of the Greek alphabet. The new names aren’t intended to replace official scientific designations, but it’s hoped they’ll provide labels that are easier to remember and say than alphanumeric names, and less stigmatizing than the informal use of countries’ names to identify new variants.

The WHO has a list of existing “variants of concern” and “variants of interest” that have been given new labels under the Greek alphabet naming scheme. “Alpha” refers to B.1.1.7, the variant first documented in the UK, while “Delta” is B.1.617.2, which was first documented in India. In total, the WHO has already used 10…

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