Covid strains: What comes after Delta?

Greek letters will now be used to refer to the variants (Picture: Getty)

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has announced a new naming system for Covid-19 variants, in an attempt to remove the stigma of them being named after places.

Greek letters will now be used to refer to the variants instead of locations.

Experts believe the Delta variant first identified in India has taken over from the Alpha variant, and is now the dominant strain in the UK.

But what are the new names of the existing variants, and what Greek letter comes after Delta?

Here is all you need to know,

What are the existing Covid variants now called?

The four main variants of concern are known as follows:

  • UK variant (B.1.1.7) – Alpha
  • South African variant (B.1.351) – Beta
  • Brazilian variant (P1) – Gamma
  • Indian variant (B.1.617.2) – Delta

surgeons performing on a patient

The variant that originated in India is now called Delta (Picture: Getty)

Greek names have also been given to variants of interest – strains that are less prevalent, but the WHO is keeping an eye on.

They are as follows:

  • Epsilon (B.1.427/B.1.429) – first identified in the United States
  • Zeta (P.2) – first identified in Brazil
  • Eta (B.1.525) – first identified in multiple countries
  • Theta (P.3) – first identified in the Philippines
  • Iota (B.1.526) – first identified in the United States
  • Kappa (B.1.617.1) – first identified in India

Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s Covid-19 technical lead, tweeted: ‘No country should be stigmatised for detecting and reporting variants.’

She told STAT News: ‘We’re not saying replace B.1.1.7, but really just to try to help some of the dialogue with the average person.

‘So that in public discourse, we could discuss some of these variants in more easy-to-use language.’

man coughs wearing a covid mask

The names have been introduced to remove the stigma of associating them with locations (Picture: Getty)

What comes after Delta?

‘Epsilon’ comes after Delta – however, there is already a variant with this name.

In fact, at the time of writing this article, there are variants all the way up to Kappa, which is the tenth letter of the Greek alphabet.

That means that the next Covid-19 variant identified will be called Lambda.

The full Greek alphabet is as follows:

  • Alpha
  • Beta
  • Gamma
  • Delta
  • Epsilon
  • Zeta
  • Eta
  • Theta
  • Iota
  • Kappa
  • Lambda
  • Mu
  • Nu
  • Xi
  • Omicron
  • Pi
  • Rho
  • Sigma
  • Tau
  • Upsilon
  • Phi
  • Chi
  • Psi
  • Omega

There are only 24 Greek letters, so if more than 24 variants are officially identified a new naming system will be announced.

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