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An ancient alphabet having a modern moment

Pool of Bethesda in Jerusalem. Greek inscriptions. Source: Getty Images Stone RF

It's an ancient alphabet having a modern moment. From Alpha to Omicron - SBS takes a look at why the World Health Organisation is using the Greek alphabet to name COVID-19 variants.

The Greek alphabet is currently having a moment in the public eye with the World Health Organisation (WHO) continuing to name variants of COVID-19 after its letters.

The one on everyone's lips at the moment is the Omicron variant.  

The World Health Organisation (WHO) Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus issues a warning.

 

Listen to the podcast here

An ancient alphabet having a modern moment
00:00 00:00


Highlights

  • There are now seven 'variants of concern' and 'variants of interest', each has a Greek letter.
  • The Greek alphabet is used to name variants to avoid any stigma associated with naming variants after the countries in which they originated.
  • WHO only gives Greek letters to variants of concern and variants of interest.

The current variants of concern are Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta and Omicron, while the variants of interest are Lamda and Mu.

"Omicron is spreading at rate that we have not seen with any previous variant. We are concerned that people are dismissing Omicron as mild. Surely we have learned by now that we underestimate this virus at our peril," WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus warns.

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