DAN WOOTTON: Renaming Covid variants will be music to the Chinese government’s ears


The World Health Organization has failed time and again during the worst public health emergency in a century.

It has not held the Chinese communist government to account for covering up the origins of Covid-19.

It failed to prepare the world for what had just been unleashed from China.

And it failed to investigate the very legitimate theory that the disease was leaked from a lab in Wuhan.

With more than three million dead already, you would hope and pray that the WHO has sorted out its priorities by now.

An employee at the P4 laboratory in Wuhan, China's Hubei province in February 2017

An employee at the P4 laboratory in Wuhan, China’s Hubei province in February 2017

But instead, like so many international organizations, the world cannot give up on political correctness despite the dire emergency the world is facing.

That is the only explanation for yesterday’s decision for WHO to rename Covid variants to Greek letters of the alphabet – to avoid “geographically stigmatizing and discriminatory” discussion.

So from now on, the Indian variant is officially called Delta. The Brazilian variant is now Gamma. The South African variant is converted to Beta.

And our own Kent variant – referred to internationally as the UK variant – will be referred to as Alpha in the future.

WHO technical leader Maria Van Kerkhove admitted the change is “intended to aid public discussion.”

In other words, the thought police strike again.

The P4 laboratory (center left) on the campus of the Wuhan Institute of Virology in May 2020

The P4 laboratory (center left) on the campus of the Wuhan Institute of Virology in May 2020

Justifying the decision, Van Kerkhove said: ‘No country should be stigmatized for detecting and reporting variants. The labels are simple, easy to pronounce and remember, and are based on the Greek alphabet, a system that was chosen after extensive consultation and a review of a number of possible systems.’

What a complete and utter cobbler.

There is only one reason why the variants are named after the locations where they are identified: because it is a geographical fact and easy to remember.

It’s bad enough to have to listen to terrified British politicians and broadcasters run through their entangled formula of ‘variant B.1.617, the variant first identified in India’ to avoid just saying ‘the Indian variant’ like any normal person.

But now they just become random Greek words?

WHO's technical lead on Covid-19, Maria Van Kerkhove, admitted the change is 'intended to aid public discussion'

WHO’s technical lead on Covid-19, Maria Van Kerkhove, admitted the change is ‘intended to aid public discussion’

Throughout the long dark winter, as Britain went through a brutal second wave and plunged into a draconian lockdown, the international media reveled in discussing the British variant at every opportunity.

Our EU neighbours, desperate to deviate from their pathetic failed vaccine rollouts, couldn’t stop talking about the dastardly British species.

In America, the media simply say the British or British variant. And no one is complaining.

I never felt any racial hatred about that. We discovered the species in the United Kingdom. End of story.

Here at home we all call it, including politicians and broadcasters, simply the ‘Kent variant’. And I don’t think the good people of that county have felt particularly stigmatized by it.

Likewise, the WHO was quite happy when South Africa became a synonym for scary Covid portability.

So what has changed six months later? It is hard to avoid the conclusion that this is now the specter of racism because India is a non-white country.

Not that there have been reported cases in the UK of Indians being abused because of this new variant.

The decision is particularly meaningless because it will not change the reality of the variant that countries like Australia have seen relentlessly ban all arrivals from India, even for their own citizens.

So I keep talking about the Kent variant, the Indian variant and the South African variant.

There’s absolutely nothing even slightly racist about it – just a practical decision so you know what I’m talking about.

Meanwhile, the WHO stance of avoiding geographic stigma is really playing into China’s hands.

From the first day of this virus, the Chinese government has been on a cover-up that makes Chernobyl look like a petty crime.

It successfully misled the WHO, which consistently lacked the balls to find out what was really going on.

As I mentioned last April, when the idiots on Facebook tried to claim it was a conspiracy theory, the Chinese government has serious questions to answer about whether the virus leaked from a lab in Wuhan.

If that turns out to be the case, then why on earth should Covid-19 NOT be known as the China virus – as Donald Trump publicly called it to the horror of the awakened world?

The 1918 Spanish flu pandemic caused no lasting reputational damage to Spain, although there is no evidence that it even started there.

Nor the Hong Kong flu that killed between one and four million souls in 1968, although somewhat ironically the first outbreak may have actually started in mainland China and spread to the island.

The difference in this case is that China was actively trying to cover up the origins of Covid-19, which at the very least helped to spread it unchecked around the world.

There was a quintessential gem clinging to the great and the good when it was suggested that Dominic Cummings could argue that Boris Johnson — like Donald Trump, had privately referred to Covid as “kung flu” in the early days.

Again, I don’t think for a second that’s racist. Just a funny pun.

But in these puritan times, when the civil service looks for racism and phobia in every expression, that’s enough to make most people cancel.

Without the political correctness and anti-Trump behavior of organizations like the WHO and Facebook, we might now know a lot more about the origins of this disease.

Politically correct wakery has no place in international public health politics.

The World Health Organization needs to stop worrying about what we call Covid-19 and start focusing on how — and by whom — it was made.