The World Health Organisation (WHO) on Saturday named the new COVID-19 variant B.1.1.529, which has been detected in South Africa, as 'Omicron'.
This variant was first reported to WHO from South Africa on Friday.
"In recent weeks, infections have increased steeply, coinciding with the detection of B.1.1.529 variant. The first known confirmed B.1.1.529 infection was from a specimen collected on 9 November 2021," WHO said in a statement.
This variant has a large number of mutations, some of which are concerning. The number of cases of this variant appears to be increasing in almost all provinces in South Africa.
"Based on the evidence presented indicative of a detrimental change in COVID-19 epidemiology, the Technical Advisory Group on SARS-CoV-2 Virus Evolution (TAG-VE) has advised the WHO that this variant should be designated as a VOC (Varinant of Concern), and the WHO has designated B.1.1.529 as a VOC, named Omicron," the statement added.
Meanwhile, Twitter users were up in arms after the WHO skipped two Greek alphabets Nu and Xi, and chose Omicron instead. Many on Twitter speculated that the WHO skipped Nu to avoid confusion with the word “new” and skipped Xi because it could have been misconstrued as a reference to Chinese President Xi Jinping.
"you don’t need to be a Greek Alphabet expert to work out why WHO would skip from Nu to Omicron, avoiding Xi….(sic)," a Twitter user said.
Another Twitter user wrote: "The scare of China is such in WHO that the new variant is named ‘Omicron’ after ‘Nu’, skipping ‘Xi’ totally. And we can all guess why ! And that’s when the origin of corona is from China itself. Hypocrisy unlimited !!"