Just days after the WHO announced the detection of a new variant in South Africa, the B.1.1.529, named Omicron, a viral forward has resurfaced alleging the detection of Covid variants preplanned. The viral post alleges that the coronavirus pandemic is staged and that the(Omicron) variant has come six months ahead of its ‘scheduled release’.
‘It (Omicron variant) was planned (to strike) in May 2022’ the viral forward claims. The post is being widely shared on social media platforms including messenger service WhatsApp. Newschecker has found the post and its claims to be false.
Newschecker received a request to fact check the post claiming detection of Covid variants preplanned on our WhatsApp helpline number (9999499044). The viral forward contains a picture of a document showing a tabular column, with Greek alphabets beginning with delta on one side and months on the other. The Greek alphabets and months are written in a sequence one-after-the other, and on the right side of the tabular column the logo of the World Economic Forum, WHO and the Johns Hopkins University are placed.
On checking social media, Newschecker found several posts shared with similar claims.
It must be noted that this is not the first such false claim on the Omicron variant. Newschecker recently debunked another viral post, which claimed that the Omicron variant was known to the WEF in advance.
To check the veracity of the claim that called the detection of Covid variants preplanned, Newschecker conducted a keyword search of the viral post to verify the truth of the claim and discovered similar posts from mid-2021 that displayed the identical document. The World Health Organisation’s logo was also visible on the viral graphic’s right hand side, with the logos of the other two global institutions.
On further observation, Newschecker also found factual inaccuracies with the dates mentioned in the viral image. For instance, the table mentions June 2021 as the ‘date of release’ for the Delta variant. But according to WHO the variant was detected as early as October 2020 in India.
The detection of the other Variant of Concern, Lambda, is also not correct. The WHO report mentions the Lambda strain under the ‘Variant Of Interest’ and records its date of detection as December 2020, while the viral ‘document’ says it will be ‘released’ in January 2022.
In addition to the WEF, one must also note the naming scheme of the variants under the WHO nomenclature policy. The WHO had skipped naming the new variant after the Greek alphabets Nu and Xi.
But the table has the names of both the Nu and Xi on it, indicating that the Greek alphabets were merely listed against the months from July onwards in sequence in the viral ‘document’.
Newschecker also reached out to the World Economic Forum for their response on the viral image. Speaking exclusively to Newschecker, the WEF said,
We are awaiting the response from World Health Organization.
The viral image that shows tabular column with a list of Greek Alphabets and months written against them in sequence, carrying the logo of the WHO, WEF and the Johns Hopkins University placed on the document, does not indicate a ‘planned release of variants’ as is being claimed.
Result: Fabricated Content/False News
World Economic Forum