Zimbabwe News and Internet Radio

New Covid variant called Omicron not Xi to avoid offending Chinese ruler

Officials at the World Health Organisations skipped two letters of the Greek alphabet when naming the latest Covid variant, which was first identified in South Africa, in order to avoid “stigmatising” China, and perhaps its premier Xi Jinping.

Nu and Xi were apparently the next letters in the Greek alphabet that have yet to be used for a variant, according to data on their website.

Internet pundits and politicians speculated that the group skipped Nu to avoid confusion with the word “new” and passed on Xi because of its written similarity to the name of Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) retweeted a Telegraph editor who cited a WHO source saying Xi was skipped to “avoid stigmatizing a region.”

“If the WHO is this scared of the Chinese Communist Party, how can they be trusted to call them out next time they’re trying to cover up a catastrophic global pandemic?” Cruz sniped in a criticism of the country’s role in the outbreak.

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Wall Street Journal language columnist Ben Zimmer had a different take.

“Kudos to the WHO for skipping over the potentially confusing Nu and Xi names and going straight to Omicron,” he wrote.

Others joked about the apparent choice after many media outlets had prematurely started calling the Omicron variant “Nu.”

“As a letter enthusiast, I feel sad for Nu and Xi not getting their moments,” tweeted one user. “I get it, but it’s still a bummer.”

“No sorry we’re not calling the new COVID strain ‘nu variant’, are we?,” another said. “I refuse to have my Christmas cancelled by something that shares and epithet with a playlist featuring Limp Bizkit.”

The WHO has been using Greek letters such as Alpha, Beta and Delta to describe the variants, saying on its website it would “be easier and more practical to be discussed by non-scientific audiences.”

Omicron is the fifth variant to be designated a variant of concern by WHO, which also gave the designation for Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta. The Lambda, Epsilon and Mu variants have all also made headlines.

But the United Nations public health agency avoided Nu and Xi for two reasons, a spokeswoman told The Post.

“[For] Nu the reasoning was people would get confused thinking it was the new variant, rather than a name,” Dr. Margaret 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.” New York Post