Omicron: WHO skips letters 13 and 14 of the Greek alphabet to name new variant, internet goes behind theories

Confusions are being raised on the naming of the new variant Omicron and the internet is full of stories on why letters 13 and 14 Nu and Xi were skipped by the World Health Organisation. The new variant emerged in South Africa a few days ago and Scientists are trying to find out if the new strain is more contagious, CNN reported.

Apart from the discussion about the variant’s immunity towards the vaccines and other concerns, the questions on why the name Omicron was adopted, are also the topic of discussion.

To name the coronavirus variant, WHO has been using letters of the Greek alphabet. Delta was the most dominant one, followed by eight others — including Epsilon, Iota, and Lambda, etc. 

After the revelation of the presence of the new variant from South Africa, observers might have expected WHO to name it after the next Greek letter on the list: Nu. The other option in the list was the next letter Xi. However, neither letter “Nu” nor letter “Xi” was adopted. The letter “Nu” could be confused with “new” and “Xi” is part of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s name- as per the findings of experts. The main reason was to avoid confusion and stigmatization of a particular region.

Omicron, the name of the new variant, is the 15th letter in the Greek alphabet. The first 12 letters have been used to name the previous strains of the virus. Twitter is filled with theories about the naming of the new variant. Many tweeted on these reports. Some even called the variant “Nu” but later corrected themselves, noting that WHO had jumped two alphabets. “News of new Nu variant, but WHO is jumping the alphabet to call it Omicron, so they can avoid Xi,” posted Martin Kulldorff, whose Twitter bio describes him as an epidemiologist.

WHO posted on its website, that the identified best practices for the naming of new human diseases with the aim to minimize the unnecessary negative impact of disease names on trade, travel, tourism, or animal welfare. So that’s how this latest coronavirus variant became named Omicron.

Read Also: Omicron outbreak; What is the new variant, why it is a variant of concern, explained

Amidst the discussions, the virus variant, Omicron which was detected in South Africa has been found as highly risky to combat. Cases with the new strain have appeared in at least a dozen countries so far. The world has been taking several kinds of steps, such as imposing travel curbs and tightening border controls, to contain the spread of the new variant. It has already been found in Israel and some countries of Europe.