World Health Organization Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus speaks at a press conference at its head office in Geneva on Dec. 20, 2021. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo

The end of the novel coronavirus pandemic is potentially drawing near and people should therefore step up efforts to prevent any further spread, the chief of the World Health Organization said Wednesday.

"We are not there yet. But the end is in sight," WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a press conference, noting that the tally of COVID-19 deaths last week fell to a level seen in March 2020.

According to the U.N. health agency, the number of COVID deaths from Sept. 5 to 11 stood at 10,935 worldwide, down 22 percent from a week earlier. New infections for the week plummeted 28 percent to 3.13 million.

"We can see the finish line. We're in a winning position," he said.

Tedros urged people to increase their vigilance toward containing the virus, comparing the situation to that of a marathon runner who "runs harder" when the finish line comes into view.

If the world does not take the opportunity to end the pandemic now, there is still risk that more variants of the virus will develop, leading to increases in death rates as well as ongoing disruptions and uncertainty, he said.

Tedros demanded that current arrangements to provide virus tests and gene analyses be maintained and that anti-COVID inoculation efforts accelerate in areas where vaccination rates remain low.

The virus was first discovered in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in December 2019 and the WHO declared a global pandemic in March 2020.