Netizens in Grip of Guesswork After WHO Skips Two Greek Letters to Name New COVID Variant

© REUTERS / Denis BalibouseA logo is pictured outside a building of the World Health Organization (WHO) during an executive board meeting on update on the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Geneva, Switzerland, April 6, 2021
A logo is pictured outside a building of the World Health Organization (WHO) during an executive board meeting on update on the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Geneva, Switzerland, April 6, 2021 - Sputnik International, 1920, 27.11.2021
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The new strain, discovered in South Africa and recognised by the World Health Organisation as "a variant of concern", has already prompted Canada, Israel, the US, the UK, and a number of EU countries to announce travel restrictions on African nations.
The World Health Organisation's decision to dub a new variant of COVID-19 Omicron has prompted extensive guesswork by netizens who wondered why the WHO moved to skip a number of letters in the Greek alphabet and picked the 15th one.
The UN health agency did not immediately explain why, for example, it ignored Nu and Xi, which come after Delta in the Greek alphabet. Delta is the name of a COVID strain that was first identified in India in December 2020 and then quickly spread across the country, reaching Europe and the US.
Telegraph editor Paul Nuki, however, cited an unnamed WHO source as saying that the organisation skipped Nu in order to avoid confusion with the word "new" and preferred not to name the new variant Xi "to avoid stigmatising a region", an apparent nod to Xi's written similarity to the name of Chinese President Xi Jinping.

"All pandemics inherently political!", Nuki argued in a tweet that was then retweeted by US Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), who once again accused China of a "cover-up" in connection with the COVID pandemic.

"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 tweeted.
Most netizens, however, published sarcastic posts about the WHO's decision, tweeting: "I thought Epsilon comes after Delta" and that Omicron "sounds like a character from the movie Transformers".
One Twitter user seemed to have subscribed to the view put forth by the WHO source, arguing that the organisation "jumped right over the Greek Xi probably to appease China".
Yet another netizen struck a serious tone as they tweeted that "whilst half the world is joking about or questioning the name of this new variant, we should all be concerned" because "the transmission rate and mutatios [sic] that are happening make this very viable".
Travellers check a departures list at the ticketing level of Seattle-Tacoma International Airport before the Thanksgiving holiday in Seattle, Washington, U.S. November 24, 2021. - Sputnik International, 1920, 26.11.2021
Live Updates: Countries Temporarily Ban Travel From Southern Africa Over New Virus Strain
Several countries in Europe and beyond have already slapped travel restrictions on African nations in connection with the new strain discovered in South Africa and Botswana. The new variant reportedly contains 32 mutations, making it potentially more transmissible and resistant to vaccines.
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