Why WHO skipped ‘Nu,’ ‘Xi’ in naming new coronavirus variant Omicron

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The World Health Organization logo is seen at the WHO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, in this 2019 file photo. The WHO on Friday chose to dub a newly identified coronavirus variant ‘Omicron’.Anja Niederinghaus / The Associated Press

A newly identified variant of the coronavirus has been named after some social media users are scratching their heads about the World Health Organization’s system for labeling certain versions of the virus.


The WHO chose to dub the version on Friday, first reported by scientists in South Africa to the agency, continuing its use of the Greek alphabet for naming notable forms of the virus — “Omicron.”

However, social media users correctly noted that the organization skipped two letters in doing so, raising questions about the move.

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Here’s what we know about how Omicron’s name ended with it.

Claim: The World Health Organization has labeled the new strain an “Omicron” variant, excluding “Nu” and “Xi”, without any explanation.

Fact: The WHO on Friday named a new variant of the coronavirus, named “Omicron”, which causes COVID-19. The agency also considered it “a type of concern”.

The Associated Press reports that omicron was first reported to the United Nations health agency by scientists in South Africa and has been identified in several other countries.

The WHO has followed the Greek alphabet when labeling certain types of the virus, SARS-CoV-2, since May. It said the system allows variants to be referred to in a simpler way than by their scientific names, and it helps prevent people from referencing variants from the place where they were detected and causing stigma. Was.

Many expected the agency to label the latest version Nu, which comes after Mu, a version named August 30.

Instead, the WHO omitted NU as well as Xi, the next Greek letter in line – a move that many users on social media pointed to, while some questioned whether it was intended to humiliate Chinese leader Xi Jin-ping. was to be avoided.

In a statement to the AP, the WHO said it left NU for the sake of clarity and that Xi generally left to avoid committing crimes.

The WHO said, “‘nu’ is very easily confused with ‘new’, and ‘she’ was not used because it is a common surname.” cultural, social, national, regional, professional or ethnic group.

Those best practices were outlined in a May 2015 document released by the agency. The organization said at the time that it wanted to “minimize unnecessary negative impacts on nations, economies and peoples” when naming infectious diseases.

This is the first time the organization has started using the Greek alphabet for coronavirus variants; It has used the alphabet to label the first 12 others. Alpha, beta, gamma and delta are all currently “worry types” like Omicron. Lambda and mu are given the less serious “type of interest” designation. Six other letters were assigned to former forms of interest.

The oomicron variant appears to have a high number of mutations in the spike protein of the coronavirus, which could affect how easily it spreads among people. The WHO said on Friday that preliminary evidence “suggests an increased risk of reinfection” compared with other forms of anxiety.

But scientists are still in the process of researching what the genetic changes mean to learn whether the variant is more transmissible or dangerous. So far, there is no indication that the variant causes more severe disease.

Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Granthshala editors, giving you a brief summary of the day’s most important headlines. ,


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