Deadly New Covid Variants in China Now Have Names

"Logo of the World Health Organization" by US Mission Geneva is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

In Guangdong, a coastal province in South China, 19 variant cases have been reported. All local transmissions have been linked to the Indian and UK versions, which are spreading quickly due to their heightened transmissibility, according to municipal officials.

“President Kagame meets with Matshidiso Moeti, World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Africa | 29 June 2017” by Paul Kagame is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

With the exception of seven imported cases in Guangdong, Shanghai, Fujian, and Henan, China’s National Health Commission-certified 20 new locally acquired COVID-19 cases across the country in the past 24 hours, all from Guangdong Province. In the southern province, three new asymptomatic instances of locally acquired COVID-19 were also identified, which China does not recognize as confirmed cases.

At a news conference on May 30, Chen Bin, deputy head of the municipal health commission of Guangzhou indicated that recent cases were of the new, fast-spreading Indian form of the virus.

This is the first formal indication from Chinese officials that the Indian variety has been spreading across mainland China. According to China’s state media, recent transmission networks have been traced back to five individuals, most of whom are based in central Guangdong Province.

The New Varients

The letters of the Greek Alphabet are currently being given to variants of the new coronavirus in an effort to ease conversation and pronunciation while avoiding stigma. 

The new names were announced by the World Health Organization on Monday, following complaints that previous designations offered by scientists; some complaints alleged that the so-called South African variation (also known as B.1.351, 501Y.V2, and 20H/501Y.V2), was too difficult.

As a result, the four coronavirus variations identified as being of concern by the United Nations (and commonly known as the UK, South Africa, Brazil, and India variations) have been assigned the initials Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and Delta in order of detection.

The History of Naming Viruses

Viruses have long been linked to the places where they are assumed to have originated, such as Ebola, which is named after the Congolese river of the same name. However, like with the so-called “Spanish flu” epidemic of 1918 (which had uncertain origins) this can be harmful to the areas and is frequently erroneous.

According to bacteriologist Mark Pallen, who was engaged in the discussions, the Greek Alphabet was chosen after months of deliberation; during this time, experts explored other options such as Greek Gods and fabricated, pseudo-classical names.

However, many of the names were already trademarks, companies, or extraterrestrial names. After he pointed out that it resembled an English swear term, another concept to refer to variants of concern as VOC1, VOC2, and so on was abandoned.

Some scientists had their own simpler nomenclature for variants before the new WHO method, such as a February report utilizing bird names. However, it was criticized by the mother of a girl named “Robin,” who said that it could endanger birds.