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The lower bounds on K(n,R), minimum number of codewords of any binary code of length n, and covering radius R are improved. A new technique combining the Hamming association scheme and the results of a classic problem of covering pairs by k-tuples is introduced. The new lower bounds are obtained by studying various linear inequalities satisfied by covering codes, and such an inequality is derived. The lower bounds for K(n,R) are studied for some special values of n and R, which serve as examples showing how the methods developed are applied to concrete cases.