Donald Trump Jr, Ted Cruz Troll WHO For Skipping 'Xi' in Naming Omicron Variant

Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Donald Trump Jr. have criticized the World Health Organization (WHO) for skipping the Greek letter Xi in naming a new variant of COVID-19.

The WHO announced on Friday that the COVID variant known as B.1.1.529 was a Variant of Concern (VOC) and that it had been named the Omicron Variant, skipping the letters Xi and Nu.

The health body has been using the Greek alphabet to designate variants in order to make discussion of the virus easier for non-scientific audiences but the choice of Omicron has led to some backlash.

Donald Trump Jr., former President Donald Trump's son, tweeted on Friday: "As far as I'm concerned the original will always be the Xi variant."

That's a reference to Chinese President Xi Jinping, whose surname bears clear similarities in English to the Greek letter Xi.

However, they are pronounced differently.

Senator Ted Cruz also weighed in with similar criticism, retweeting a senior editor at The Telegraph newspaper who reported that Xi had been skipped to "avoid stigmatizing a region."

"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?" Cruz wrote.

In naming the variant, the WHO also skipped the Greek letter Nu. A spokesperson, Dr. Margaret Harris, told The New York Post on Friday that when it came to Nu "the reasoning was people would get confused thinking it was the new variant, rather than a name."

The new variant was initially referred to as Nu in media reports but the WHO had not yet made a designation at that time.

"And Xi because it's a common surname and we have agreed [to] naming rules that avoid using place names, people's names, animal, etc. to avoid stigma," Harris said.

Xi is a relatively common surname and according to genealogy portal Forbears, it is the 708th most common surname globally, while 1 in 9,415 people have that name. The name Xi occurs in China more than anywhere else.

Former President Trump and some of his allies have referred to COVID-19 as the "China Virus" or the "Wuhan Flu" - named for the region of China where it was first detected - but the WHO has discouraged the use of such terms.

"Viruses know no borders and they don't care about your ethnicity, the color of your skin or how much money you have in the bank," said Mike Ryan, WHO Emergencies Program executive director, in March last year.

Composite Image Shows Trump Jr. and Cruz
A composite photo shows Donald Trump Jr. and Senator Ted Cruz. Both men have criticized the WHO for skipping the Greek letter Xi in naming a new COVID-19 variant. Getty Images