This won’t stop until we stop it.
Variants could be named after star constellations when Greek alphabet runs out, says WHO Covid chief
UN health agency fears variants of concern could outnumber the 24 letters of the Greek alphabet, Maria Van Kerkhove tells the Telegraph
By Sarah Newey, GLOBAL HEALTH SECURITY CORRESPONDENT August 2021 • 4:00pm
Dr Van Kerkhove said several alternatives have already been dismissed, including naming variants after Greek gods and goddesses
New coronavirus variants could be named after star constellations once letters of the Greek alphabet are exhausted, a senior World Health Organization official has suggested.
In an interview with the Telegraph Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s technical chief for Covid-19, said the UN health agency was already looking at new names for mutations amid fears there will be more concerning variants than the 24 letters of the Greek alphabet.
That system was introduced in late May and so far 11 mutations have been named: four variants of concern, including delta and beta; four variants of interest, such as eta and lambda; plus epsilon, zeta and theta, thought to be “of interest” but since downgraded.
But as the coronavirus continues to mutate, it is possible there will be more key strains than available letters.
Dr Van Kerkhove said star constellations are the current frontrunner to follow the Greek alphabet, suggesting we could one day see variants known as Aries, Gemini or Orion.
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