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Fact Check-The Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 is named after the 15th letter of the Greek alphabet

Social media users have made unfounded claims of a sinister message behind the naming of the new coronavirus variant of concern.

The B.1.1.529 variant, first discovered in southern Africa, was named Omicron by the World Health Organisation (WHO) on Nov. 26 (here).

Social media users have pointed out that ‘OMI’ is an acronym for a type of heart disease, while ‘CRON’ is a command used in computing (here and here).

“They really are taking the piss,” wrote one person on Facebook who posted two screenshots of their Google searches. They concluded the post with the hashtag ‘#inplainsight’.

One screenshot showed the Google search for ‘OMI’, which showed a result taken from a page of acronyms on The Free Dictionary (see here). A total 35 OMI acronyms are listed – the fourth of which is “Old Myocardial Infarction (heart disease)”.

The second screenshot shows the Google definition result for ‘CRON’. It reads: “A command to an operating system or server for a job that is to be executed at a specified time.”

There is no evidence that these were a factor in the naming of the new coronavirus variant.

The WHO said in May that it had decided to name Variants of Interest (VOI) or Variants of Concern (VOC) of SARS-CoV-2 after letters of the Greek alphabet (here).

This decision was to ensure variants had simple names that are easy to say and remember, and to avoid people naming them after the locations where they were first detected, which the WHO notes is stigmatizing and discriminatory.

Omicron is the 15th letter of the Greek alphabet (here) and is the fifth VOC identified by the WHO. This follows on from the Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta variants of the virus.

Two VOIs have also been identified. They are called Lambda and Mu.

More on the naming of the Omicron variant has been addressed by Reuters here.

VERDICT

Partly false. The Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 was named after a letter of the Greek alphabet.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work here .

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