WHO avoids Greek alphabet Xi and names new Covid variant Omicron. Here's why

Published on Nov 27, 2021 03:13 PM IST

Omicron comes next to Nu and Xi, the alphabets WHO experts have cautiously avoided.

WHO skipped Nu and Xi. (Photo: Twitter/@MartinKulldorff)
WHO skipped Nu and Xi. (Photo: Twitter/@MartinKulldorff)
By | Written by Poulomi Ghosh

The new variant of Covid identified first in South Africa has been named omicron by the World Health Organization on Friday. The variants of SARS-CoV-2 are named after Greek alphabets, but for naming omicron, the experts skipped two letters Nu and Xi and chose omicron instead. In fact, Nu started trending on social media platforms after the news of a new Covid variant came out as Nu was the possible choice for the name of this new variant, which is believed to be more transmissible than the other variants.

Omicron comes next to Nu and Xi, the alphabets WHO experts have cautiously avoided. According to experts, Nu has been avoided as this alphabet is confusing with the English word new. And Xi has been avoided so that the name is not misconstrued as a reference to Chinese premier Xi Jinping.

Omicron Covid variant: What do we know about risks, symptoms, tests

Paul Nuki, senior editor of the Telegraph shared a quote from a source in WHO who said the alphabets have been deliberately avoided. "Nu had been skipped to avoid confusion with the word new and Xi had been skipped to avoid stigmatising a region," the court read, without mentioning the region.

"If the WHO is this scared of the Chinese Communist Party, how can they be trusted to call them out the next time they're trying to cover up a catastrophic global pandemic?" Senator Ted Cruz tweeted.

Omicron is the 15th letter of the Greek alphabet. The letter is derived from the Phoenician letter ayin.

"Based on the evidence presented indicative of a detrimental change in COVID-19 epidemiology, the TAG-VE has advised WHO that this variant should be designated as a VOC, and the WHO has designated B.1.1.529 as a VOC, named Omicron," the WHO said on Friday.

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