Omicron – B.1.1.529 – the newest variant of concern designated by the World Health Organization has hit the global headlines and sparked fresh concerns of a new wave of infections around the globe. But what perplexed many is the very name of the variant – Omicron. Yes, it’s a Greek alphabet but what many are pointing out is the not-so-correct order. For the uninitiated, the WHO had decided to name the subsequent variants of the novel coronavirus based on the Greek alphabets to avoid stigmatization. Hence the UK-origin variant came to be known as Alpha and Indian-origin became Delta. So, when you look at the series of the alphabets, the next in line were ‘Nu’ and ‘Xi’. But instead, the WHO jumped straight to ‘Omicron’. So why avoid ‘Nu’ and ‘Xi’? Several foreign journalists and health experts have pointed out this ‘not-so-usual pattern of WHO naming system. Here are top views from Twitterverse:
Kudos to the WHO for skipping over the potentially confusing Nu and Xi names and going straight to Omicron. https://t.co/fa4q66VOjL https://t.co/9w5f4yIU8p
— Ben Zimmer (@bgzimmer) November 26, 2021
A WHO source confirmed the letters Nu and Xi of the Greek alphabet had been deliberately avoided. Nu had been skipped to avoid confusion with the word “new” and Xi had been skipped to “avoid stigmatising a region”, they said.
All pandemics inherently political!
— Paul Nuki (@PaulNuki) November 26, 2021
WHO: New variant is Omicron
Not Nu variant, that’s confusing
Not Xi variant, that would antagonize China
— ian bremmer (@ianbremmer) November 27, 2021
News of new Nu variant, but WHO is jumping the alphabet to call it Omicron, so they can avoid Xi. pic.twitter.com/UJ4xMwg52i
— Martin Kulldorff (@MartinKulldorff) November 26, 2021
The WHO has said that it will take weeks before it can make final assessment regarding the Omicron variant.