The International Monetary Fund has downgraded its forecasts for global economic growth this year.

In an update to its World Economic Outlook, the IMF said growth will slow from 5.9% in 2021 to 4.4% in 2022. This is half a percentage point lower for this year, compared to its forecast in October.

The main reason for the downward revision are downgrades for both the US and China.

In the US, the IMF says the downgrade is reflecting "lower prospects of legislating the Build Back Better fiscal package", tighter monetary policy and continued supply shortages.

In China, it says the real estate sector has continued to retrench and there is a "weaker-than-expected recovery in private consumption".

In a blog to accompany the new forecasts, the IMF's First Deputy Managing Director, Gita Gopinath writes that "record debt and rising inflation" is constraining the ability of many countries to address renewed disruption caused by Omicron.

However, the IMF says the record surge in infections is expected to decline relatively quickly.

While it expects Omicron to dent growth in the first three months of this year, the IMF said it also expects its effect to fade through the rest of the year.

The IMF says elevated levels of inflation are expected to persist for longer than it thought back in October although food and energy inflation is expected to moderate later this year.

It also predicts that supply and demand patterns will come back into line.

While it expects most advanced countries to return to pre-pandemic levels of economic activity this year, the IMF warns this will not be the case for many middle and lower income countries. It estimates there are an additional 70 million people now living in extreme poverty compared to pre-pandemic trends.

It says progress in poverty reduction has been set back by several years and also warns that with interest rates rising, many indebted countries will have difficulty in repaying their debts.

The IMF puts the global death toll due to the pandemic at 5.5 million and estimates economic losses to be close to $13.8 trillion up to 2024.

Worldwide access to vaccines is "essential" to reduce the risk of further, more damaging variants of Covid-19, the IMF states.

It also describes as "imperative" the need to invest in climate policies to "reduce the risk of catastrophic climate change".