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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The global economy is starting 2021 in a better position than had been expected in 2020, but surging COVID-19 cases and new strains of the virus are clouding the outlook and making for a “dark winter,” the International Monetary Fund’s chief economist said on Tuesday.

Gita Gopinath brushing her hair: International Monetary Fund Chief Economist Gita Gopinath takes questions at the annual meetings of the IMF and World Bank in Washington © Reuters/JAMES LAWLER DUGGAN International Monetary Fund Chief Economist Gita Gopinath takes questions at the annual meetings of the IMF and World Bank in Washington

“What is true as of now is that we’re starting out the year at a somewhat stronger point than we had expected in 2020, which is a good thing” Gita Gopinath told CNBC. “But right now, it’s a race between the virus and the vaccines and until we get past this, I think this is a pretty difficult period at this time.”

Video: Economists forecast strong rebound from Covid-19 vaccine in 2021 (CNBC)

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The IMF is expected to revise its Global Economic Outlook forecasts on Jan. 26. In October, it forecast a 4.4% global GDP contraction for 2020, followed by a rebound to growth of 5.2% for 2021.

(Reporting by David Lawder; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

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