The World Health Organization (WHO) had started naming Covid-19 variants after the Greek alphabet to make it simple to identify, remove confusion and to avoid stigma. On Friday, it has given the newest variant which has emerged from the southern region of Africa the name “omicron.” However, this name has caused some speculation as WHO skipped two letters in the alphabet—Nu and Xi and settled for the 15th letter in the alphabet—Omicron.
According to the New York Times and other outlets such as the Daily Mail there has been speculation that the letter Xi was avoided as it could be related to the Chinese president Xi Jinping.
Although WHO may have deferred to China, senators and others in the U.S. have no qualms about referring to the avoidance of the letter Xi.
Donald Trump Jr. posted on Twitter that as far as he was concerned the original would always be “the Xi variant.”
Republican senator Ted Cruz retweeted a post by a Telegraph editor. The editor had cited a WHO source who said that “Xi” was not considered as the organization wanted to “avoid stigmatizing a region.”
Senator Cruz questioned this saying “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.”
China has faced criticism right from when the pandemic broke out from Wuhan. Beijing had refused to share access to early information about the coronavirus and had tried to deflect its origins from Wuhan, in China by suggesting other theories about its origin.
On Saturday, Tarik Jasarevic, who is a WHO spokesman said that “‘Nu is too easily confounded with new.” He also said that “Xi” was not used as it was a “common last name.”
He also mentioned that the organization used best practices for naming diseases. It avoids using names that could cause offense to “any cultural, social, national, regional, professional or ethnic group.”