WHO ‘deliberately’ skips naming new COVID variant with Greek letter spelled same as name of China’s president

News & Politics

The Greek letter that the World Health Organization assigned to the new variant of COVID-19 is raising eyebrows and triggering accusations that the WHO is once again kowtowing to communist China.

What are the details?

The WHO
announced the identification of a new SARS-CoV-2 variant on Friday — B.1.1.529 — which was first discovered in South Africa just weeks ago.

The WHO explained:

The B.1.1.529 variant was first reported to WHO from South Africa on 24 November 2021. The epidemiological situation in South Africa has been characterized by three distinct peaks in reported cases, the latest of which was predominantly the Delta variant. In recent weeks, infections have increased steeply, coinciding with the detection of B.1.1.529 variant. The first known confirmed B.1.1.529 infection was from a specimen collected on 9 November 2021.

This variant has a large number of mutations, some of which are concerning. Preliminary evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection with this variant, as compared to other [variant of concerns]. The number of cases of this variant appears to be increasing in almost all provinces in South Africa.

Like previous variants, the WHO assigned variant B.1.1.529 a letter from the Greek alphabet. The WHO last used letters “Lambda” and “Mu” to designate variants of interest.

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However, the WHO skipped the next two letters in the Greek alphabet — “Nu” and “Xi” — to designate B.1.1.529 as the “Omicron” variant. Both “Nu” and “Xi”
were reportedly “deliberately avoided” by the WHO.

What was the response?

The WHO’s decision to skip “Nu” and “Xi” did not go unnoticed, generating accusations that the WHO is once again appeasing China, whose president is named Xi Jinping.

“He who must not be named. It appears the W.H.O. has skipped the next Greek letter after Nu to name the new variant. The next letter is Xi. The concern is that W.H.O. is again avoiding any discomfort for the Chinese government. So they named it Omicron,” Jonathan Turley, a professor at George Washington University Law School, reacted.

“[Y]ou don’t need to be a Greek Alphabet expert to work out why WHO would skip from Nu to Omicron, avoiding Xi…,” said Jim Pickard, chief political correspondent at the Financial Times.

“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?” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) tweeted.

Other people said:

What did the WHO say?

Dr. Margaret Harris, a spokeswoman, admitted the WHO deliberately skipped “Nu” and “Xi.”

“It went from miu to omicron— jumping both nu and XI. [For] Nu the reasoning was people would get confused thinking it was the new variant, rather than a name,” Harris said. “And XI because it’s a common surname and we have agreed [to] naming rules that avoid using place names, people’s names, animal, etc to avoid stigma.”

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