Published: 29th November 2021
What The FAQ: Why is the new COVID variant named Omicron?
The delta variant has found a stronger and younger sibling in Omicron, the latest COVID variant. But why is it named Omicron? We explain it here
Right when we thought that the third wave may not happen in India and that we could soon bid au revoir to the masks (and show off our pretty lipsticked smiles), scientists in South Africa decided to be the bearers of bad news. Well, you know what we are talking about here. The delta variant has found a stronger and younger sibling in Omicron, the latest variant of COVID. But why is it named Omicron? We explain it here.
What is the Omicron variant exactly?
The B.1.1.529 variant, popularly known as Omicron, was first reported to the WHO from South Africa on 24 November 2021. This was after a spike in COVID cases in the region and the scientists believe that it is linked to the presence of the variant.
And what is Omicron?
It is the 15th letter of the Greek alphabet, between Nu and Pi.
Is Omicron the 15th variant of COVID?
No. It is the 13th variant. However, it has been named after the 15th Greek letter.
And why is that?
The thirteenth and the fourteenth Greek letters are Xi and Nu. According to a WHO statement, "Two letters were skipped — Nu and Xi — because Nu is too easily confused with “new” and Xi, because it is a common surname and the WHO's best practices for naming new diseases (developed in conjunction with FAO and OIE back in 2015) suggest avoiding “causing offence to any cultural, social, national, regional, professional or ethnic groups."
By the way, is Omicron a dangerous variant?
The WHO has called it a variant of concern (VOC). According to the UN body, "This variant has a large number of mutations, some of which are concerning. Preliminary evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection with this variant, as compared to other VOCs." World leaders and health professionals have been constantly asking people to mask up and follow COVID appropriate SOPs.