“Customarily you would receive the prize from the hands of His Majesty, the king of Sweden,” she told Gurnah at the ceremony attended by friends, family and colleagues. “However, this year you will be celebrated with a distance forced upon us because of the pandemic.”

Three 2021 Nobel Prize laureates said Monday that climate change is the biggest threat facing the world — yet they remain optimistic — as this year’s winners began receiving their awards at scaled-down local ceremonies adapted for pandemic times, AP reports.

For a second year, COVID-19 has scuttled the traditional formal banquet in Stockholm attended by winners of the prizes in chemistry, physics, medicine, literature and economics, which were announced in October. The Nobel Peace Prize is awarded separately in Oslo, Norway.

Literature laureate Abdulrazak Gurnah was first to get his prize in a lunchtime ceremony Monday at the Swedish ambassador’s grand Georgian residence in central London.

Ambassador Mikaela Kumlin Granit said the U.K.-based Tanzanian author had been awarded the Nobel Prize in literature for his “uncompromising and compassionate penetration of the effects of colonialism and the fate of the refugee in the gulf between cultures and continents.”

“Customarily you would receive the prize from the hands of His Majesty, the king of Sweden,” she told Gurnah at the ceremony attended by friends, family and colleagues. “However, this year you will be celebrated with a distance forced upon us because of the pandemic.”

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