World Health Organization Skips Greek Letter ‘Xi’ in Naming New Covid Variant


The World Health Organization announced Friday it was naming a new Covid-19 variant “Omicron,” skipping over a politically sensitive letter of the Greek alphabet.

The WHO made the announcement about the B.1.1.529 variant out of Johannesburg, South Africa, passing over a letter many observers presumed would be next — “Nu” — as well as the subsequent letter, “Xi,” which composes part of Chinese leader Xi Jinping‘s name.

The virus joins earlier variants named for letters of the alphabet, including the Alpha variant out of the United Kingdom; the Beta variant out of South Africa; the Gamma variant out of Brazil; and the Delta variant out of India. Additional variants include Epsilon, Zeta, Eta, Theta, Iota, Kappa, Lambda, and Mu.

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