The World Health Organisation (WHO) announced on May 31 that B.1.617.1 and B.1.617.2 variants of the COVID-19, first identified in India, has been named as ‘Kappa’ and ‘Delta’ respectively, as it named various variants of the coronavirus using Greek alphabets.
“Today, @WHO announces new, easy-to-say labels for #SARSCoV2 Variants of Concern (VOCs) & Interest (VOIs). They will not replace existing scientific names, but are aimed to help in public discussion of VOI/VOC,” Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s technical Covid-19 lead, tweeted on May 31.
Delta, in particular, scientifically named B.1.617 or the “double mutant” variant is considered to be more infectious and thus likely responsible for the exponential surge in infections in India since mid-March. Kappa, scientifically known as the B.1.617.1 variant was found earlier in the country.
“The labels don’t replace existing scientific names, which convey important scientific information and will continue to be used in research. No country should be stigmatised for detecting and reporting COVID-19 variants,” WHO official Dr Maria Van Kerkhove added.
The Government of India earlier had objected over the B.1.617 variant being referred to as “Indian variant of coronavirus” by sections of the media.
“Several media reports have covered the news of WHO classifying B.1.617 as a variant of global concern. Some of these reports have termed the B.1.617 variant of the coronavirus as an ‘Indian Variant’.
These media reports are without any basis, and unfounded,” the government said in a statement.
Responding to India’s concern, WHO South-East-Asia tweeted, “WHO does not identify viruses or variants with names of countries they are first reported from. We refer to them by their scientific names and request all to do the same for consistency,”