3 June 2021

Beware the Epsilon Strain

The Back Page

When comes to combating the global scourge of covid, what’s the most important thing the WHO can be doing right now?

Did you answer: Making sure folks aren’t getting offended by having covid variants named after their nations? No? Neither did we.

But it transpires the WHO has indeed devised a new naming system for the strains. No longer will we have the UK, the South African and the Indian strains. Instead, they will be referred to using the letters of the Greek alphabet. So those three are now called “alpha”, “beta” and “delta” respectively, and Brazil’s mutation will be the “gamma” strain.

The WHO says the practice of calling variants by the places where they are detected, is stigmatising and discriminatory. (“China virus”, anyone?)

“To avoid this and to simplify public communications, WHO encourages national authorities, media outlets and others to adopt these new labels,” according to a news release.

Which is all well and good, but did anyone ask the Greeks if they are OK with this cultural appropriation of their letters for this purpose? We’ve heard no word yet from the Greek Cultural Protection Society (possibly because we just made that organisation up), but it’s early days.

Let’s not forget that the Spanish are still arking up about having that century-ago deadly flu named after them even though it didn’t actually originate there.

On the upside, as one TMR colleague noted, the next variant will be called the “Epsilon Strain”, and that would make a cracking title for a Sci-fi thriller.

On the other hand, if we ever get to the “omega variant” stage then we are all officially cactus.

If you see something that makes you go hmmmm … send an email to felicity@medicalrepublic.com.au.

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