Danish photographer Mads Nissen won the World Press Photo of the Year Award on Thursday with his picture of a Brazilian nursing home resident hugging a healthcare worker after months in Covid isolation.
The photo captures an embrace between a nurse and 85-year-old Rosa Luiza Lunardi after she spent five months isolated in her Sao Paolo nursing home.
The women are separated by a protective plastic sheet to reduce the risk of contagion.
Taken in August 2020, the shot first appeared in the Danish daily Politiken, where Nissen is a staff photographer.
"This iconic image of Covid-19 memorialises the most extraordinary moment of our lives, everywhere," World Press Photo Award jury member Kevin WY Lee said in a statement.
He said the picture showed vulnerability, loss and separation but if "you look at the image long enough, you'll see wings: a symbol of flight and hope".
"The First Embrace" won the competition's main category as well as a prize in the General News - Singles category.
"To me, it's a story of love and hope in the most difficult times," Nissen said.
It is Nissen's second World Press win -- he scooped first prize in the 2015 competition for his intimate portrayal of a gay couple in Russia.
Italian documentary photographer Antonio Faccilongo won the World Press Photo Story of the Year, a new award introduced in 2019, for his chronicle of love stories set to the backdrop of the long-running Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Faccilongo's pictures "shows another side of the long contemporary conflict", jury member Ahmed Najm said.
"My work has the ambition to be a cultural bridge to bring people together," Faccilongo added in a statement.
Ernesto Benavides, a freelancer working for Agence France-Presse in Lima won second prize in the Spot News - Stories for a series of images taken when supporters of ousted Peruvian president Martin Vizcarra clashed with police in November.
More than 74,000 images had been submitted by some 4,300 photographers around the world, and 45 of them had been nominated by the judges, according to the organisers of the Amsterdam-based competition.
The awards ceremony took place online this year due to coronavirus restrictions.
The photo of the year award was won in 2020 by AFP photographer Yasuyoshi Chiba, for an image of a young man reciting a poem among protesters in Sudan.