A name means everything where disease is concerned. That is why the World Health Organization has sensibly relabelled the most worrying variants of the coronavirus . By using the letters of the Greek alphabet rather than naming according to the country where a strain was first identified, the United Nations’ body hopes stigma can be removed from discussion of the Covid-19 pandemic. In turn, that should strengthen the fight against the virus by easing the concerns of governments about reporting outbreaks and suspected mutations. What has been popularly known as the British variant will be referred to as Alpha, the South African Beta, the Brazilian Gamma, and the two strains identified in India as Delta and Kappa. The scientific names, involving a lettering and numbering system, will still be used among health experts. With the Greek alphabet having 24 letters, there is significant room for the inclusion of future variants. But it is to be hoped that there are not many more; each mutation potentially poses an even greater threat to global health. Why more contagious Covid-19 variants are emerging Naming by where a disease is first observed is problematic. It can affect perceptions and reputation, as with what was known as the Hong Kong flu outbreak of 1968. Officials were understandably sensitive to the severe acute respiratory syndrome pandemic of 2003 being referred to by the acronym Sars; it was too similar to the city’s designation as a Special Administrative Region, or SAR, of China. But the biggest lesson surely lies in the manner in which former United States president Donald Trump and other foreign politicians used the coronavirus’ first recorded outbreak in Wuhan for political gain. Their use of the terms “Wuhan flu” and “China virus” was behind an anti-Beijing movement that in turn unintentionally led to discrimination and physical attacks, sometimes fatal, on Chinese and other Asians in their countries. The WHO quickly stepped in and coined the term Covid-19 for the pandemic to avoid such references. Naming variants to prevent stigma is a necessity. But there would be a lower chance of mutations emerging if the world’s people could be swiftly vaccinated. The longer the delay, the greater the risks – and the more names needed.