The World Health Organisation (WHO) on Monday said it has devised a less technical, and more easily pronounceable, system for naming COVID-19 variants of the novel coronavirus known as SARS-CoV-2.
Scientists said the letters-and-numbers system was so complicated that many people were referring to variants by the places they were discovered, for example, B.1.617.2, which people referred to as the Indian variant because it was first detected in the Asian country.
Variants will be assigned letters of the Greek alphabet in the order in which they are designated potential threats by WHO.
B.1.617.2 has been named Delta under the new system and the variant discovered in Britain (B.1.1.7), which has contributed to devastating waves of cases globally has been renamed Alpha.
Scientists worry that those informal nicknames, such as Indian Variant, South African variant, can be both inaccurate and stigmatising, punishing countries for investing in the genome sequencing necessary to sound an alarm about new mutations that may well have emerged somewhere else.
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