The Covid-19 variant first found in India will now be referred to as ‘Delta’, while the earlier found variant in the country will be known as ‘Kappa’, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said as it announced new levels for coronavirus strains on Monday.
The organisation decided to refer to the most worrisome variants known as ‘variants of concern’ by letters in the Greek alphabet. So the first such variant of concern, which first appeared in Britain and can be also known as B.1.1.7, will be known as the alpha variant. The second, which turned up in South Africa and has been referred to as B.1.351, will be known as the beta variant.
A third that first appeared in Brazil will be called the gamma variant and a fourth that first turned up in India the delta variant. Future variants that rise to of concern status will be labeled with subsequent letters in the Greek alphabet.
The labels do not replace the existing scientific names, which convey important scientific information and will continue to be used in research, WHO said. No country should be stigmatised for detecting and reporting Covid variants, said Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, Technical lead of COVID-19 at WHO.
Both the B.1.617.2 strain or Delta and B.1.617.1 strain or Kappa were first detected in India in October 2020, WHO said. The strains make up an increasing proportion of cases in India in the second wave.
The world health body had earlier said viruses or variants should not be identified by the names of countries they were found in.
Lineages of the B.1.617 variant were officially recorded in 53 territories and unofficially in another seven, WHO had said.