WHO accused of politics for naming latest variant ‘omicron’ instead of ‘xi’

The World Health Organization has been accused of pandering to China after it announced on Friday that the latest variant of COVID-19 had been named “omicron” after the 15th letter of the Greek alphabet, skipping the letters “nu” and “xi”.

The English spelling of the Chinese president’s name is Xi Jinping, and while his name and the 14th Greek letter are pronounced differently, the similarities on paper were close enough to spark a new round of rebuke over the World Health Organization’s alleged introduction to China over the virus that was first discovered. in Wuhan.

“The concern is that the WHO is once again avoiding any inconvenience to the Chinese government,” said Jonathan Turley, a professor at George Washington University School of Law.

“It is not clear if there was another reason for the decision to skip Nou Wuxi, but the WHO’s history of investigating the origins of the pandemic has fueled speculation about a political motive,” Mr. Turley tweeted.

Among those who have dealt heavy blows to the organization for crossing the eleventh Greek letter have been repeated critics of the World Health Organization Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas and Donald Trump Jr.

“If the WHO is afraid of the Chinese Communist Party, how can they be trusted to call them up the next time they try to cover up a catastrophic global pandemic?” asked Mr. Cruz in a tweet on Friday.

In a statement to The Washington Times, the World Health Organization said the Greek letters thirteenth and fourteenth have been crossed because “nu” sounds too much like “new,” and “xi” violates the organization’s policy against offending a region.

It is very easy to confuse ‘Nu’ with ‘new’, ‘Xi’ is not used because it is a common family name, and WHO best practice for naming the disease suggests avoiding ‘causing offense to any cultural, social, national or regional,’ WHO said in a letter.

the master. Turley questioned the explanation. Some now quote the World Health Organization as saying that Nu has been avoided because it looks like ‘new’ while Xi has been skipped to avoid ‘region stigmatization’. Xi has not reached district status yet.’

He sarcastically said that he could be called “the Voldemort Dynasty,” referring to the villain in the Harry Potter books known as “He Who Should Not Be Named,” prompting historian Richard Samuelson to respond, “You resisted the urge to write ‘She who should not be named?'” “

Other commentators said the decision made sense. “They will not name a viral strain after a current world leader, that is just common sense! WHO should be neutral, naming conventions very clear,” said a post on the @GBoyd1982 account.

The World Health Organization’s Technical Advisory Group on the Evolution of the SARS-CoV-2 virus said Friday that Omicron, which was first discovered in South Africa, has been classified as a “variant of concern”. [VOC]. “

Previously, the Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and Epsilon variants were classified as variants of concern, although their classification has since been lowered to “monitored variants,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The highly contagious delta variant remains a concern, along with the Omicron variant.

“This is amazing [Omicron] The variant has a large number of mutations, some of which are of concern,” the World Health Organization said in a press release on Friday. Preliminary evidence indicates an increased risk of reinfection with this variant, compared to other VOCs. The number of cases of this variant appears to be increasing in Almost all provinces of South Africa. Current SARS-CoV-2 PCR diagnoses continue to detect this variant.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly named Mr. Turley’s law school.

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