New Delhi: The World Health Organization (WHO) on Monday (May 31, 2021) announced to give new names to various COVID-19 variants and labelled B.1.617.2, first found in India, as 'Delta'.
The United Nations agency said that it will now refer to the most worrisome variants known as 'variants of concern' by letters in the Greek alphabet. The WHO stated that 'new, easy-to-say labels' will not replace existing scientific names, but are aimed to help in public discussion of VOI/VOC.
As such, the four coronavirus variants considered of concern by the WHO and known generally by the public as the UK, South Africa, Brazil and India variants have now been given the letters Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta, according to the order of their detection.
"No country should be stigmatized for detecting and reporting variants. Globally, we need robust surveillance for variants, including epi, molecular and sequencing to be carried out and shared. We need to continue to do all we can to reduce the spread of SARS-CoV-2," said WHO epidemiologist Maria Van Kerkhove.
They will not replace existing scientific names, but are aimed to help in public discussion of VOI/VOC
— Maria Van Kerkhove (@mvankerkhove) May 31, 2021
According to WHO, the Variants of Concern:
1. Increase in transmissibility or detrimental change in COVID-19 epidemiology; or
2. Increase in virulence or change in clinical disease presentation; or
3. Decrease in effectiveness of public health and social measures or available diagnostics, vaccines, therapeutics.
On the other hand, the Variants of Interest:
1. has been identified to cause community transmission/multiple COVID-19 cases/clusters, or has been detected in multiple countries; OR
2. is otherwise assessed to be a VOI by WHO in consultation with the WHO SARS-CoV-2 Virus Evolution Working Group.
Meanwhile, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases have increased to 17,00,51,718 globally, while the death toll stands at 35,40,437, the WHO data showed on Monday.