Home World Covid, the ‘yellow’ of the name to the Omicron variant: this is why the WHO has skipped the letters Nu and Xi

Covid, the ‘yellow’ of the name to the Omicron variant: this is why the WHO has skipped the letters Nu and Xi

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The World Health Organization has renamed Omicron the new variant of Covid-19 discovered in recent days by the health authorities of South Africa and already spreading also in Europe. Since the start of the pandemic, WHO has named the variants of the virus by assigning them a letter of the Greek alphabet from time to time. The practice goes towards reasons of universal understanding of the term used, but also aims to avoid that a pathological form can be identified with the country in which it was isolated for the first time.

The WHO practice, however, this time, has undergone a derogation for the first time: the UN body has in fact skipped the two letters of the alphabet that were “on duty” for assigning new variants: the Nu and the Xi. The “version” of the virus discovered in South Africa, in fact, should have been called Nu, following the Colombian variant that had been called Mu. Instead, the WHO skipped the Nu and also the next letter, the Xi. In the absence of official explanations, the decision initially ended up in the center of a small yellow that also fueled political controversy when it seemed that the letter Xi had been avoided so as not to offend Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Subsequently, prompted by the media, the WHO issued a brief statement in which it explained the reasons for the exclusion of the two letters. In the case of Nu, the letter has a phonetically too close resemblance to the English word New and could lead to misunderstandings. As for Xi, the WHO explanation is that it was avoided because it represents a widespread surname and the organization is always very careful to choose names for new diseases that do not offend “social, cultural, national, regional groups, professional or ethnic “.

The malicious ones wanted to point out, however, that that very common surname in a region not mentioned is, however, that of the Chinese president Xi Jimping. “If WHO is so afraid of the Communist Party of China – tweeted Republican Senator Ted Cruz in the US – how can we think they will denounce (the Chinese) the next time they try to cover up a catastrophic global pandemic?”.


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