Piedrangel funeral home workers Luis Zerpa (L), Luis Brito (C) and Jhoan Faneite from Venezuela carry the body of Marcos Espinoza, 51, who died from the coronavirus in his precarious house in a poor neighborhood in Pachacamac on the outskirts of Lima, Peru, May 8, 2020. Photographer Rodrigo Abd said the image encapsulates the injustices that the pandemic exposed: The plight of Venezuelan migrant funeral workers doing a job to survive despite the risks; the high mortality rate among Peru’s poorest and the harshness of the desert landscape around Lima, where over 10 million people live without water or basic services. “I will never forget this image for all that it represents,” Abd said.
Father Vasily Gelevan, a Russian Orthodox priest, blesses Lyudmila Polyak, 86, who is believed to be suffering from COVID-19, at her apartment in Moscow, June 1, 2020. Associated Press photographer Alexander Zemlianichenko says this of the image: “I feel it’s both very intimate and also deeply symbolic, an image of empathy and self-denial in the face of mortal danger.” He says taking the photo was “also very important for me on a personal level, an experience that transformed me, helping overcome my own fear” of the virus.
Agustina Canamero (L), 81, and Pascual Pérez, 84, hug and kiss through a plastic film screen to avoid contracting the coronavirus at a nursing home in Barcelona, Spain, June 22, 2020. Associated Press photographer Emilio Morenatti says this of the image: “I couldn’t help feeling emotional myself while I was shooting, and I realized that such an eternal moment symbolized something more than a simple meeting. The plastic kept the virus but not the love away.”
South African National Defense Forces patrol the Men's Hostel in the densely populated Alexandra township east of Johannesburg, March 28, 2020, enforcing a strict lockdown in an effort to control the spread of the coronavirus. Photographer Jerome Delay said the scene reminded him of South Africa before apartheid ended in 1994, with the army raiding the hostel not looking for guns but enforcing a strict lockdown that included a ban on the use of cigarettes and alcohol. He says he still hears the men, packed six to a room, shouting down the halls: “If we can’t go out and can’t work, we can’t eat.”
Hassan Khabir (L), 31, Ali Rahimi (C), 53, and Mohammad Hossein Khoshnazar, 18, volunteer clerics wearing protective clothing, prepare the body of a 59-year-old man who died from COVID-19 for burial on the outskirts of the city of Ghaemshahr, in northern Iran, Dec. 19, 2020. Associated Press photographer Ebrahim Noroozi says of the image: “I was filled with so much grief and sorrow; seeing the body of that dead man in such a cold and darkroom that I could not even raise my camera to take a picture” at first. “But the devotion and sacrifice of the three volunteers,” who have buried some 500 bodies, “are the rays of hope ... We should still stay hopeful.”
Cemetery workers in protective clothing bury a person at the Vila Formosa cemetery in Sao Paulo, Brazil, April 1, 2020. Photographer Andre Penner said he was initially afraid of covering funerals because he feared he might get infected and bring the virus home to his family, so he used a drone. The effect though was twofold: It kept him at a safe distance, but it also showed the vast scope of the burial field – a reality that President Jair Bolsonaro denied when he appeared live on social media to call the photograph “fake news.”
SOS Funeral workers transport by boat a coffin carrying the body of an 86-year-old woman who lived by the Negro River and is suspected to have died of COVID-19, near Manaus, Brazil, May 14, 2020. Associated Press photographer Felipe Dana says this of shooting the photo: “I’ll never forget the scene of the funeral service workers wearing full hazmat suits, navigating along the Negro River as the sun disappeared in the horizon. It was the moment I realized how the virus had spread everywhere.”
Romelia Navarro, 64, weeps while hugging her husband, Antonio, in his final moments in a COVID-19 unit at St. Jude Medical Center in Fullerton, California, July 31, 2020. Photographer Jae C. Hong said even though he had the family’s consent to be there, he struggled to shoot the intimate scene, feeling uneasy to even pick up his camera and document the end of someone’s life. “Capturing someone else’s painful emotion never gets easier,” Hong said. “What I saw that day still haunts me from time to time.”
A child wearing a mask rests along the Yangtze River on April 5, 2020, in Wuhan in central China's Hubei province just days before the lifting of the city’s 76-day coronavirus lockdown. Associated Press photographer Ng Han Guan says of the photo: "Personally the photo summed up my feelings being in the city which was unceremoniously shut down and residents forced into a comatose state of inactivity that somehow became normalized.” Though the riverbank scene is Idyllic, he says, “In the background, a slumbering city skyline is ready to hum back to life.”
Holocaust survivor Yehoshua Datsinger places tefillin on his arm above the Auschwitz concentration camp identification number tattoo, during morning prayer at a synagogue limited to 20 people during lockdown, in Bnei Brak, Israel, Sept. 21, 2020. Photographer Oded Balilty said he was struck that even though older people were the most vulnerable to the coronavirus, Datsinger still went to the synagogue every morning to pray. “He survived this latest war as well,” Balilty said.
Nurses and doctors clear themselves before defibrillating a patient who tested positive for COVID-19 and suddenly went "Code 99," or into cardiac arrest, in Yonkers, N.Y., U.S., April 20, 2020. The emergency room team successfully revived the patient. Associated Press photographer John Minchillo says of witnessing their heroic efforts: “Seeing the medical team risk death to save the life of a stranger, knowing the air surrounding us was teeming with particles from intubated patients' lungs, left me grateful for good people in this world. My respect for these New Yorkers is boundless.”
Otilia Maria Martinez Dos Santos, an artist of Portuguese descent, poses for a portrait at the Rony Roller circus, parked in the outskirts of Rome, Italy, April 18, 2020. Photographer Alessandra Tarantino said she came up with the idea to shoot circus workers after growing frustrated and bored with the postcard-like shots of an empty Rome during lockdown. The shot was taken between poses, with the swing seemingly attached to the sky. “Her empty gaze, lost in the void, deeply affected me. It’s hard to dance without the music,” Tarantino said.
Blanca Ortiz, 84, celebrates after learning that she will be discharged from the Eurnekian Ezeiza Hospital, on the outskirts of Buenos Aires, Argentina, Aug. 13, 2020, several weeks after being admitted with COVID-19. Photographer Natacha Pisarenko said the moment was one of the few she witnessed in months of covering COVID-19 in which doctors and nurses allowed themselves to feel joy. “The moment made all of us in the room with her laugh and feel hopeful again,” Pisarenko said. “It was the brightest moment for me while covering such a heavy story.”
Men who were detained for not complying with COVID-19 regulations by breaking curfew or attending block parties are transported in a police van, in the Petare neighborhood of Caracas, Venezuela on Aug. 8, 2020. Associated Press photographer Ariana Cubillos says the image “made me realize COVID-19 has caged us and taken away our freedom of movement. It struck me as ironic that the same authorities enforcing the curfew were putting these men at risk of contagion by breaking the very social distancing rules authorities put in place.”
A daughter of a migrant laborer who has been quarantined with her parents at a government school waits for her father to return with food packets in New Delhi, India, March 31, 2020. Photographer Manish Swarup said the girl’s forlorn look and confinement behind the bars of the school epitomized the imprisonment people around the world felt being cooped up at home. “It encapsulates the widespread distress caused by the lockdown, through the eyes of a child, whose life had ground to a halt,” he said.