The coronavirus variant, first detected in India, will be referred to as “Delta,” the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on May 31. The variant is considered to be likely responsible for the exponential surge in infections in India since mid-March.
“COVID-19 variant first found in India will be referred to as ‘Delta’ while earlier found variant in the country will be known as ‘Kappa,'” the WHO said.
Scientifically, the more infectious variant of coronavirus found first in India is referred to as B.1.617, also known as the ‘double mutant.’
“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 stigmatized for detecting and reporting COVID-19 variants,” WHO official Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove added.
The Government of India had, on May 12, marked its objection 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.
Taking cognizance of India’s objection, the UN health agency clarified that it does not label any coronavirus variant after the country was first detected.
“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,” stated a tweet posted on the official handle of WHO South-East Asia.