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GENEVA : Citing the recent rise in Covid-19 cases, especially in China, a World Health Organization (WHO) spokesperson said on Friday that the end of the Covid-19 pandemic was a long way off

The UN health agency had earlier said that the acute phase of the pandemic could end this year but it would depend on how quickly we meet its target to vaccinate 70% of the population in each country, among other factors.

Regarding the timing of the pandemic's end, Margaret Harris said it was "far from over". "We are definitely in the middle of the pandemic," she added.

After more than a month of decline, Covid cases started to increase around the world last week, the WHO said, with lockdowns in Asia and China's Jilin province battling to contain an outbreak.

A combination of factors was causing the increases, including the highly transmissible Omicron variant and its cousin the BA.2 sub-variant, and the lifting of public health and social measures, the WHO said.

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