Covid-19: What is in a name? A lot it seems!

Variants of Covid-19, the worst pandemic to hit the world in recent times will soon be named after letters of the Greek alphabet


Now emerging variants of Covid-19, the worst pandemic to hit the world in recent times, will soon be named after letters of the Greek alphabet. This announcement from the World Health Organization (WHO) comes in the wake of ‘stigma’ being attached to the coronavirus variants when they are named after the countries they reportedly were identified in first/ variants.

The WHO stated that it has “been monitoring and assessing the evolution of SARS-CoV-2 since January 2020”. And after it established “emergence of variants that posed an increased risk to global public health” it categorised them as “Variants of Interest (VOIs) and Variants of Concern (VOCs),” to prioritise global monitoring and research. It then gave them new titles using the Greek alphabets, instead of alphanumeric codes or countries of origin.

As reported in the Verge, the “naming diseases after geographical locations has a long history that includes the Ebola virus (named after the Congolese river) and the Spanish Flu”. Most recently it was the former president of America Donald Trump who had called Covid-19 the “Chinese Virus”. International media, including the Verge, reported how this was one of the factors that led to rancid attacks and hate crimes against Asian American and Pacific Islanders in the US. The WHO epidemiologist Maria Van Kerkhove had been quoted as saying, “No country should be stigmatised for detecting and reporting variants.”  As per Verge Covid-19 was officially named  that in February 2020, and before that was referred to as “Wuhan pneumonia” or “Wuhan flu.” 

On May 11 the World Health Organisation had said the Coronavirus variant first identified in India in 2020 “was being classified as a variant of global concern.” According to the World Health organisation (WHO), this was based on preliminary studies that showed that it spreads more easily. Named B.1.617,it was reported to be “the fourth variant to be designated as being of global concern” and the other variants of global concern were first detected in Britain, South Africa and Brazil. On May 12, the government issued a statement slamming media reports that used the term “Indian Variant”. The information technology (IT) ministry asked all social media companies  to “take down” content that refers to “Indian variant”.    

However, now that WHO has assigned new labels for Variants of Interest or Variants of Concern, even though they shall not replace existing scientific names it is hoped that they will lessen references that are “stigmatizing and discriminatory.” The WHO has even asked “national authorities, media outlets and others to adopt these new labels.”

Biden reviving hunt for COVID-19 origins?

As theories, including conspiracy based ones, continue over whether Coronavirus was created in and leaked from a laboratory in Wuhan, China, in 2019, the truth is yet to be unearthed. According to multiple media reports, US President Joe Biden has ordered that the origins be traced. According to a report in Reuters, “U.S. intelligence agencies are pursuing rival theories potentially including the possibility of a laboratory accident in China.” The US  president’s written statement reportedly said that Biden had asked his team in March to detail whether the novel coronavirus “emerged from human contact with an infected animal or from a laboratory accident.” 

According to the news report this has “lent credence to a theory that the virus may have emerged from a Chinese research laboratory instead of in nature.” As reported by WION, “Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump and his secretary of state Mike Pompeo had kept up an unrelenting tirade against China, including accusations that: the virus was man-made; had escaped from the Wuhan lab in the course of secret experiments; and, experiments involving the virus were for military purposes, or what is known as “gain of function”.”


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