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BEIJING: AFP's standout coverage of China's lockdown of Wuhan in the earliest stages of the Covid-19 pandemic has been recognised with two prizes at Asia's most prestigious journalism awards. Shanghai-based photographer Hector Retamal won first prize in the Excellence in Photography category at the 2021 Society of Publishers in Asia (SOPA) awards announced Thursday, while Beijing-based video journalist Leo Ramirez was runner-up in the Excellence in Video Reporting category.

Together with reporter Sebastien Ricci, Retamal and Ramirez arrived in Wuhan on January 23 last year - just as the city of more than 11 million people was placed in an unprecedented lockdown. For the next eight days, they were the only multimedia team from an international agency to be reporting from the deserted streets and crowded hospitals of the sealed-off city.

The many powerful images they produced in both photo and video included what would become an iconic image from the pandemic - a man lying dead in the street and being attended to by emergency workers in full body protective gear and masks.

"This is what photography does that mere words cannot. The majority of us can only imagine what Covid looks like in Wuhan. Retamal's photos show us exactly what it does," the SOPA judges said.

Describing AFP's video submission "Eight Days in Wuhan: Cut Off From the World" as "textbook excellent video journalism", the judges noted the AFP team's presence at ground zero of the global pandemic before anyone really knew what it would become.

Ramirez "tells the story in a clear, factual, dispassionate fashion. The video is short, rich with amazing shots and access and voiceover that not only tells you what you're seeing, but puts it into a broader, global context," the judging panel said.

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