Badiucao, the artist known for his piercing criticism of the Chinese Communist Party, slammed the World Health Organization’s decision to skip the Greek letter “Xi” (pronounced “ksi”) to name the latest coronavirus variant “Omicron,” as a concession to Beijing.
— 巴丢草 Badiucao???????? (@badiucao) November 27, 2021
In a tweet promoting his latest work, Badiucao said that all variants should be considered the “Xi Virus,” after the Chinese Communist Party leader, presumably because the party’s initial attempts to cover up the spread of the virus in late 2019 made it impossible to prevent the emergence of a global pandemic. “Shame on @WHO,” he wrote.
The international health body, which names COVID variants according to the Greek alphabet, also skipped the letter Nu. WHO officials have said that Nu sounded too much like “new” and claimed that naming it Xi, the next letter, would have violated its internal guidelines because that’s also the English spelling of a common Chinese last name. WHO guidelines issued in 2015 say that officials should avoid “causing offence to any cultural, social, national, regional, professional or ethnic groups.”
But WHO’s move appeared to be an attempt to avoid a falling out with the Chinese Communist Party general secretary, given the way in which it caved to Beijing’s demands at the start of the pandemic. And, as Jim Geraghty noted earlier, WHO officials weren’t as careful about a previous variant that also shared the spelling of a common last name.
Meanwhile, WHO spokespeople have taken a righteous tone in their unconvincing rejoinders to criticism of the group’s handling of the situation:
Hi Hillel, actually, “nu” and “xi” were both skipped. The former would be confusing (albeit amusing for MOTs :-)) The latter didn’t comport with disease naming protocols of WHO, FAO & OIE. “Reportedly didn’t want to offend” is kind of cheap, non? https://t.co/SrDIv9wKmr
— Gabby Stern (@gabbystern) November 27, 2021
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