The COVID-19 plot thickened slightly as talks of renaming the virus took effect. According to bacteriologist Mark Pallen, who is involved in renaming variants with the Greek Alphabet, the decision came after months of deliberations. Yet, the only other option mentioned so far was naming them after the Greek Gods. While the scientific names will remain the same, the main Variants of Concern or Variants of Interest (VOI) dictated by the World Health Organization will be labeled. On their website, the WHO has stated that to meet the definitions of a VOI, the variant has to be associated with one or more of the following changes at a degree of public health significance.
- Increase in transmissibility or detrimental change in COVID-19 epidemiology; or
- Increase in virulence or change in clinical disease presentation; or
- Decrease in the effectiveness of public health and social measures or available diagnostics, vaccines, therapeutics.
Why Change The Name At All
The WHO announced that the variants would be named with the Greek Alphabet instead of the location of initial discovery in a move to avoid stigmas. So, unlike every virus or disease before it, we are renaming them due to the belief that it is stigmatizing and discriminatory. Yes, Donald Trump had a nasty habit of calling it the “Chinese Virus.” As the WHO epidemiologist, Maria Van Kerkhove, said of adopting new variant names: “No country should be stigmatized for detecting and reporting variants,” I agree with this premise. Still, the confusion lies in the fact that we have never changed the protocol before. Most of the new variants that will be given these new “common names” have the earliest documented samples recorded from all over the world. With how fast and far COVID-19 spread, it is not surprising, yet with it being worldwide, wouldn’t it make more sense to leave the name of each variant after the location of where it was first recorded? “At the present time, this expert group convened by WHO has recommended labeling using letters of the Greek Alphabet, i.e., Alpha, Beta, Gamma, which will be easier and more practical to discuss by non-scientific audiences.” is a direct quote from the WHO. Yet, most places do not use the Greek Alphabet, and most would have no idea what it would visually look like. For example, Α α, Β β, Γ γ, Δ δ, Ε ε, Ζ ζ, Η η, Θ θ, Ι ι, Κ κ, Λ λ, Μ μ, Ν ν, Ξ ξ, Ο ο, Π π, Ρ ρ, Σ σ/ς, Τ τ, Υ υ, Φ…
But Why The Greek Alphabet?
All written language is derived either directly or indirectly from the Greek Alphabet. Mycenaean Greek is the most ancient form of the Greek language we have found. It originates between the 16th to 12th centuries BC, before the hypothesized Dorian Invasion, commonly cited as the earliest introduction of the Greek language.
I have pulled this straight out of my personal Conspiracy theories handbook, but hear me out… As a history lover, when I heard we were transferring to the Greek Alphabet, the first thing my mind wondered is, why greek? We could use anything, including numbers, roman numerals, even runes! So why pick a place that had a location when we were trying to avoid targeting a location? When mentioning Greece or Ancient Greece, generally, the first thing that pops into people’s minds is Greek Mythology, but the second thing is commonly the War Of Athens. Most people who have taken a Middle School History Class have heard of the Great War of Athens and know about the feud between the Athenians and the Spartans. The War of Athens holds many similarities when it comes to the United States and our current predicament. However, the Athenians also ended up losing the war due to the plague. The epidemic claimed around 100,000 lives, and the war continued for nearly 26 years after the first wave of sickness. The Great Plague has never officially been classified; though some scientists believe it to be a variant of Typhoid, others dispute those results. The hard realization is that we may never officially find out.
The similarities to the Great Plague and The War of Athens are disputable, but there is no doubt that COVID-19 bears no discrimination. We have lost loved ones, actors, sports performers, and so many more, just as the plague took many generals and higher class citizens in Athens. Our civilization is in shambles, just as Athens was at the time of the war. The epidemic changed the course of the war and weakened Athenian Democracy so much that it eventually dissolved. Maybe it is just me, but when you look back in history, and you follow the undeniable truth that history is doomed to repeat itself, perhaps this was not just a random decision on the part of the scientist who renamed the variations of COVID-19. Will we learn from the past to make a brighter future? Or will we lead ourselves into ultimate demise without the realization that civilian unrest, a fractured government, and a pandemic of significant proportions can cause even the most prominent and most robust civilization to fall? We know this because it has.