If the coronavirus variants B.1.1.7 or P.1 confuse you, you might not be alone. When the terms coronavirus or COVID-19 came along, most people knew we were talking about a virus that’s super contagious. But as variants of the virus grew in different parts of the world, it became trickier to keep track of the names.
Because scientific names have always been tricky to remember for people, popular names for the virus and its variants are often based on the perceived place of origin. However, while it’s important to come up with names to distinguish different variants of the virus, the use of names based on countries of origin have become problematic. For example, when Donald Trump referred to COVID-19 as “the China Virus,” people worried that this association might give rise to racist attitudes. And did you know that the “Spanish Flu” in 1918 created a similar stigma for people in Spain? So now the Greek alphabet has come to the rescue! The variants will simply be assigned letters of the Greek alphabet to avoid stigma or potentially racist narratives.