The WHO skipped two letters of the Greek alphabet to name the new coronavirus variant Omicron.
Some have speculated that the letter Xi was skipped to avoid confusion with the Chinese President's surname.
The WHO reportedly said they made the decision because Xi is a common last name in China.
Right-wing figures, including Sen. Ted Cruz and Donald Trump Jr., have criticized the World Health Organization for skipping the Greek letter Xi and naming the new coronavirus variant Omicron.
The WHO has been naming coronavirus variants after Greek letters of the alphabet, believing this would "be easier and more practical to be discussed by non-scientific audiences."
Using that system, the following variant should have been called Nu and, after that, Xi.
—Jim Pickard (@PickardJE) November 26, 2021
Following an announcement on Friday that the new variant would be called Omicron, speculation arose that the two letters were skipped to avoid confusion with the English word "new" and avoid antagonizing Chinese President Xi Jinping.
(The Greek letter and Chinese surname are written the same but pronounced differently.)
"If the WHO is this scared of the Chinese Communist Party, how can they be trusted to call them out the next time they're trying to cover up a catastrophic global pandemic?" Texas Senator Ted Cruz tweeted.
—Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) November 26, 2021
Cruz responded to a tweet that suggested the WHO decided to skip Xi to "avoid stigmatizing a region."
Donald Trump Jr. also weighed in, tweeting: "As far as I'm concerned the original will always be the Xi variant."
—Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) November 27, 2021
Both echoed rhetoric common in right-wing circles that blames China for the COVID-19 pandemic.
Former President Trump and his allies have often referred to the virus as the "China virus."
Washington Examiner reporter Jerry Christmas said that the health body decided not to use Xi because it's a common last name in China.
—Jerry Christmas 🎄🎅🏽 (@JerryDunleavy) November 26, 2021
The WHO chose not to use the name as its best practices for naming diseases suggest "avoiding causing offense to any cultural, social, national, regional, professional, & ethnic groups," he said.
He said they also confirmed that Nu was not used because of its similarity to the word "new."
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