New Delhi | Jagran News Desk: Every time that a new variant of Coronavirus emerges, ever since its advent, the World Health Organisation (WHO) categorizes or names it using Greek alphabets such as Alpha, Beta, Gamma, or Delta. The WHO follows this system of classification to make the names of the variants easier to be used among non-scientific audiences. It also helps in avoiding stigmatisation of the location or people living in the region where the variant was first detected.

However, interestingly this time WHO has named the new COVID-19 strain found in South Africa- ‘Omicron’- discontinuing its tradition of using the Greek alphabets. This has confused many people about the World Health Organization’s system for labeling certain versions of the virus.

Explaining its decision, the WHO issued a statement and said that it skipped “nu” for clarity and “xi” to avoid causing offense to anyone. In the statement given to the Associated Press WHO said "Nu’ is too easily confounded with ‘new,’ and ‘Xi’ was not used because it is a common last name.” The health body also added that the agency’s “best practices for naming disease suggest avoiding ‘causing offence to any cultural, social, national, regional, professional or ethnic groups.’”

WHO's labeling system aims to “minimize unnecessary negative effects on nations, economies and people” while naming infectious diseases. That is why this time WHO has used a different name for the new COVID-19 strain detected in South Africa and several other countries including Hong Kong.

For the unversed, as of now WHO has used Greek alphabets to label 12 variants of Coronavirus. These include Alpha, beta, gamma and delta, and others. The four variants are all currently “variants of concern” like Omicron. On the other hand, Lambda and Mu are tagged as “variant of interest”.

Posted By: Sugandha Jha