WHO skips over Greek letters 'nu' and 'xi,' names new variant 'omicron'
The World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed it skipped the Greek letters "nu" and "xi" in naming its new COVID-19 variant, which it dubbed the "omicron" variant.
"'Nu' is too easily confounded with ‘new,’ and ‘xi' was not used because it is a common last name, and WHO best practices for naming disease suggest avoiding ‘causing offence to any cultural, social, national, regional, professional or ethnic groups,’" a WHO spokesperson told Fox News in a statement on Saturday.
WHO recommends using Greek letters to make the virus naming process easier, according to its website. Variants being monitored include alpha (B.1.1.7 and Q lineages), beta (B.1.351 and descendent lineages), gamma (P.1 and descendent lineages), epsilon (B.1.427 and B.1.429), eta (B.1.525), iota (B.1.526), kappa (B.1.617.1), zeta (P.2) and mu (B.1.621, B.1.621.1), which is the last letter before nu, followed by xi and omicron.
The move did not go unnoticed by pundits and politicians on social media — some of whom criticized the decision while others praised it.
Attorney Jonathan Turley suggested in a Friday tweet that the "concern is that W.H.O. is again avoiding any discomfort for the Chinese government," referencing Chinese President Xi Jinping.
He and others also highlighted that calling the latest variant of concern the nu variant could sound like "new variant" and create some confusion.
"It is not clear if there is another reason for the decision to skip over Nu and Xi, but W.H.O.'s history with the investigation into the origins of the pandemic has fueled speculation as to a political motive," Turley speculated.