Amidst the surge in COVID-19 cases around the world, caused by the highly contagious delta variant, a post with a table indicating when the future strains would be ‘released’ is circulating on social media. Let us now verify the claims in the post.
Claim: A table shows a list of planned COVID-19 variants in Spanish along with the month of release.
Fact: The contents of the chart are fabricated given that the Delta variant was first detected in India in October 2020 and none of the organizations have released any such list. Hence, the claim made in the post is FALSE.
As the world continues to battle the surge of the highly infectious delta variant, netizens are questioning the contentious nature of the table of ‘release dates’. A table has surfaced on social media with the list of future COVID-19 variants in Spanish and when they would be first ‘released’. The post has two columns labeled Cepa/variante — the Spanish words for strain/variant — and another titled lanzamiento, which is Spanish for launched. The launch dates of these future COVID-19 variants are listed between 2021 and 2023 for 21 potential COVID-19 variants named after the Greek alphabet.
The right half of the post showcases the logos of John Hopkins University, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, World Economic Forum, and World Health Organization (WHO). The claim is that these organizations have jointly created this list of future variants and are a part of the bigger COVID-19 conspiracy. However, according to AP News fact-check, “The World Economic Forum and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation both responded to Associated Press queries to confirm that the table is fabricated.”
What are the COVID-19 variants?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), viruses constantly transform/diversify through mutation, and through this process, new variants are likely to occur. The analogy that the CDC uses is that if you think of a virus is like a growing tree with branches, these variants are the branches with varying differences. These variants differ in terms of spread, severity, response to medication, the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines, among other things. In the light that the strains of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, would keep mutating into different strains, the WHO has decided to name these viral strains after the letters of Greek alphabet (alpha, beta, gamma, etc.). The rationale behind this classification system is because the variants’ scientific names are complicated and using the Greek letters is easier and more practical to be discussed by non-scientific audiences.
From the above table, it is clear that the delta variant was first detected in India in October 2020 and not in June 2021, as claimed in the post. Similarly, Eta appears to have arisen in late 2020, and as of March 2021 has been detected in North America, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia. In India, the eta variant was detected in the samples from Aizawl.
As per the post, if we check the dates of ‘launch’, there is a mismatch since the COVID-19 variants such as Eta, Iota, Kappa, and Lambda have already been detected in late 2020 as opposed to the launch dates in the post. Therefore, while the virus is bound to mutate and new strains will surface, the WHO in collaboration with partners, expert networks, national authorities, institutions, and researchers has been monitoring and assessing the evolution of SARS-CoV-2 since January 2020.
There is no evidence as yet to prove that COVID-19 is a conspiracy theory as is being alleged. It is an infectious disease caused by the newly discovered coronavirus. It has affected people the world over and there have been more than 4.2 lakh deaths reported in India owing to the diseae. Therefore, it is pertinent to stay informed, wear masks, practice social distancing & vaccinate to prevent and slow down its transmission.
In summary, the table is a fabrication and there is link between. thetable and the organizations listed. Given the nature of the viruses, mutations will occur and more virus strains will surface but these are unpredictable and are continuously monitored by the WHO.