Monkeys robbed a carer near New Delhi and seized serological test samples for COVID-19, raising fears that primates, which frequently plunder, could help spread the new coronavirus.
The monkeys seized three samples this week in Meerut, near New Delhi, before fleeing and climbing trees nearby. One of them chewed his loot.
But the samples, later discovered, were not damaged, Meerut Medical School director Dheeraj Raj told AFP on Friday, after images of the theft went viral on social media.
“They were still intact and we don’t think there is a risk of contamination or spread,” Raj said.
The three people whose blood samples were stolen by the monkeys were retested.
The new coronavirus has been detected in animals, although the risk of animal transmission to humans is not confirmed.
Indian authorities are constantly confronted with the problem of monkey thieves, who steal food or even mobile phones.
In many rural areas, farmers, whose crops are being plundered by monkey gangs, have called for local authorities to monitor their populations.
New Delhi’s municipal authorities have used long-tailed langr monkeys to confront and repel other smaller monkeys on the outskirts of the Indian parliament.
In India 175 new deaths due to COVID-19 were recorded in 24 hours, bringing Friday the death toll to a total of 4706, according to official figures.
India, a country highly vulnerable to the spread of the new coronavirus with its overcrowded megacities and failing health system, has recorded record numbers of new cases in recent days.