I’m all in favour of naming Covid variants after Greek letters — not least because there is a fixed number of them, so when we teach omega presumably we know we’re finished. Clearly, though, people at WHO recognised that alphabetical order needed to be superseded when the next major horror was due to be designated Nu. I’m sure the WHO was seeking to head off the following awkward conversation a few months from now:
Have you heard the news about Covid?
About the new Covid variant?
Sure. I had it a couple of months ago.
You can’t have had it a couple of months ago. It’s new.
Nu. That’s what I said. It knocked me out for a week.
That’s the old variant.
Wait, the nu variant is old?
Hold on a minute. How many variants have you got?
Well, you got your alpha variant, your delta variant, then your nu variant, and then this here variant that got discovered just recently.
It’s pretty new isn’t it. Kind of like a new variant.
Oh, no, the experts on TV say it had twenty different mutations from the nu variant.
So if I came down with this… novel variant, and I went to the hospital, and they sequenced the virus, could they tell me which variant I have?
And what would they tell me?
They’d tell you you have the new variant. No reason to keep it secret.
And if it’s not that one?
Then it’s probably the nu variant.
But it’s the old variant.
Called the new variant.
WHO calls out that.