India’s health ministry has objected to the use of the phrase the "Indian variant" to refer to B.1.617, a coronavirus variant first identified in India.
“Several media reports have covered the news of WHO [the World Health Organization] classifying B.1.617 as variant of global concern. Some of these reports have termed the B.1.617 variant of the coronavirus as an 'Indian Variant,' " the health ministry said in a statement on Wednesday.
WHO classified B.1.617 as a variant of concern on Monday. A “variant of concern” label indicates that the identified variant may show, among other indicators, evidence of increased transmissibility or evidence of increased severity.
“This is to clarify that WHO has not associated the term “Indian Variant” with the B.1.617 variant of the coronavirus in its 32-page document,” the statement said, citing a report released by WHO on Tuesday about the variant.
"In fact, the word 'Indian' has not been used in its report on the matter,” the statement said.
Emphasizing that the word "Indian" was never used by the World Health Organization in such a context, the ministry said media reports that use the term are “without any basis, and unfounded."
"WHO does not identify viruses or variants with names of countries they are first reported from. We refer to them by their scientific names and request all to do the same for consistency," WHO South-East Asia said in a tweet on Wednesday,
The tweet also tagged the accounts of leading Indian media outlets as well as the country's health ministry and the Press Information Bureau.