Why not Nu or Xi? As Omicron Covid variant hits global headlines, Twitter dissects WHO’s naming game

Digital display boards show cancelled flights to London-Heathrow at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Reuters photo)

Omicron – B.1.1.529 – the newest variant of concern designated by the World Health Organization has hit the global headlines and sparked fresh concerns of a new wave of infections around the globe. But what perplexed many is the very name of the variant – Omicron. Yes, it’s a Greek alphabet but what many are pointing out is the not-so-correct order. For the uninitiated, the WHO had decided to name the subsequent variants of the novel coronavirus based on the Greek alphabets to avoid stigmatization. Hence the UK-origin variant came to be known as Alpha and Indian-origin became Delta. So, when you look at the series of the alphabets, the next in line were ‘Nu’ and ‘Xi’. But instead, the WHO jumped straight to ‘Omicron’. So why avoid ‘Nu’ and ‘Xi’? Several foreign journalists and health experts have pointed out this ‘not-so-usual pattern of WHO naming system. Here are top views from Twitterverse:

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