Coronavirus latest news: WHO wants Greek alphabet names for Covid variants

·6 min read
A person prays at a crematorium in Jammu, India, for a family member who died from Covid - Channi Anand/AP
A person prays at a crematorium in Jammu, India, for a family member who died from Covid - Channi Anand/AP

Global health leaders have announced new names for Covid-19 variants using letters of the Greek alphabet to avoid being "stigmatising and discriminatory".

Experts working with the World Health Organisation developed the labels for variants that are often colloquially named after the places where they are first detected.

Many variants of Sars-CoV-2 - the virus that causes Covid-19 - have been identified around the world.

They include B.1.1.7, known in the UK as the Kent variant and around the world as the UK variant - but now labelled by the WHO as Alpha. The B.1.617.2 variant, often known as the Indian variant, has been labelled Delta, while B.1.351, often referred to as the South African variant, has been named Beta. The P.1 Brazilian variant has been labelled Gamma.

​​Follow the latest updates below.

06:06 AM

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06:02 AM

Delay June 21 reopening by 'a few weeks', warns Government scientific advisor

A leading scientific adviser to the Government has repeated calls to delay the June 21 lifting of restrictions by "a few weeks", warning the coronavirus's ability to adapt in the face of vaccines has still left the UK in a vulnerable position.

Professor Ravi Gupta, a member of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag), said the increased socialisation which has followed last month's phase of restriction lifting could be expected to lead to "quite a lot" of hospital admissions.

He said while the nation had performed "amazingly well" in its vaccination programme, it was still too early "to put the vaccine straight up against the virus".

Prof Gupta said a delay of a few weeks to the June 21 target could have a significant impact on Britain's battle against the pandemic, and recommended it should be made clear to the public that it would be a temporary measure based on recent events, chiefly the emergence of the Indian or B.1.617.2 strain of the virus.

"Even a month delay could have a big impact on the eventual outcome of this," Prof Gupta told ITV's Good Morning Britain.

04:13 AM

Malaysia back in lockdown after cases surge

Malls and many businesses in Malaysia shut today as the country began its second nationwide lockdown to tackle a worsening surge of coronavirus that has put its healthcare system on the verge of collapse.

Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin caved in to growing calls for a large-scale lockdown after daily infections breached 8,000 on Friday and soared to a record 9,020 on Saturday.

A woman in PPE outside Malaysia International Trade and Exhibition Centre in Kuala Lumpur ahead of lockdown - MOHD RASFAN/AFP
A woman in PPE outside Malaysia International Trade and Exhibition Centre in Kuala Lumpur ahead of lockdown - MOHD RASFAN/AFP

"If this drastic action is not taken immediately, it is feared that our healthcare system will collapse and we will face a bigger catastrophe," he said in a national broadcast late on Monday.

This lockdown risks derailing Malaysia's economic recovery, with businesses closed for two weeks until June 14, except for those in 17 essential sectors.

03:42 AM

Latest Covid news from Japan

  • Japan plans to start Moderna Covid vaccinations at workplaces and universities on June 21 to speed up the country's inoculation drive, a top government spokesman said.

A woman wears PPE to greet members of Australia's Olympic softball squad at Narita international airport - Issei Kato
A woman wears PPE to greet members of Australia's Olympic softball squad at Narita international airport - Issei Kato
  • Australia's softball team today became the first athletes to land in Japan for the Olympics, in a major milestone for the pandemic-postponed Games that continue to face controversy. The Aussie Spirit squad touched down in Narita airport outside Tokyo along with their support staff and were immediately ushered off for coronavirus testing.

The Australian softball national team players wait for the antigen test after arriving at Narita - Behrouz Mehri
The Australian softball national team players wait for the antigen test after arriving at Narita - Behrouz Mehri
  • The Japan Football Association said today that it was cancelling a friendly soccer match between Japan and Jamaica scheduled later this week, after 10 Jamaican players could not board a flight to Japan. The association said they were unable to take the flight due to reasons including pre-landing coronavirus testing methods, but did not provide further details.

01:09 AM

Russia to resume flights to London

Russia has decided to resume flights from Moscow to London from June 2 because of an improved Covid-19 situation, while it keeps in place bans on flights to Turkey and Tanzania until June 21.

The coronavirus taskforce said there would be three flights per week from Moscow to London.

Russia also has decided to resume a limited number of regular flights to other countries, including Austria, Hungary, Lebanon and Croatia.

12:30 AM

WHO wants variants to have Greek alphabet names

Global health leaders have announced new names for Covid-19 variants using letters of the Greek alphabet to avoid being "stigmatising and discriminatory".

Experts working with the World Health Organisation (WHO) developed the labels for variants which are often colloquially named after the places where they are first detected.

Many variants of Sars-CoV-2 - the virus that causes Covid-19 - have been identified around the world.

They include B.1.1.7, known in the UK as the Kent variant and around the world as the UK variant - but now labelled by the WHO as Alpha. The B.1.617.2 variant, often known as the Indian variant, has been labelled Delta, while B.1.351, often referred to as the South African variant, has been named Beta. The P.1 Brazilian variant has been labelled Gamma.

"While they have their advantages, these scientific names can be difficult to say and recall, and are prone to misreporting," WHO said.

"As a result, people often resort to calling variants by the places where they are detected, which is stigmatising and discriminatory."

READ MORE: Rename Covid variants to avoid ‘stigmatising’ countries, says WHO

12:06 AM

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