What are the major variants of COVID-19?

All viruses, including SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, changes over time. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has divided the variants into two categories:

  • Variants of Concern (VOC) – These are variants with clear clinical correlation evidence of an increase in transmissibility, severe disease severity, reduced effectiveness of treatments or vaccines, or diagnostic detection failures
WHO label Earliest documented samples  Date of Designation
Alpha The United Kingdom, Sep-2020  December 18, 2020
Beta South Africa, May-2020  December 18, 2020
Gamma Brazil, Nov-2020 January 11, 2021
Delta India, Oct-2020  VOI: April 4, 2021 

VOC: May 11, 2021

  • Variants of Interest (VOI) – This is a variant with reduced neutralisation by antibodies generated against previous infection or vaccination, reduced efficacy of treatments, potential diagnostic impact, or predicted increase in transmissibility or disease severity.
WHO label Earliest documented samples  Date of Designation
Lambda Peru, Dec-2020 June 14, 2021
Mu Colombia, Jan-2021 August 30, 2021
Kappa India, Oct-2020 April 4, 2021
Zeta Brazil, April-2020 March 17, 2021
Theta Philippines, Jan-2021 March 24, 2021

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