KEY POINTS

  • Monkeys stole three blood samples from a coronavirus facility in a medical school in India
  • Animals roam the cities freely since the lockdown, but monkeys were not a threat, until now 
  • School officials said that the stolen samples had been retrieved intact

A tribe of monkeys stole COVID-19 blood samples from a government hospital laboratory in India Thursday (May 28), fueling more fears of a virus spread in the region.

The monkeys also attacked the lab technicians working at the coronavirus facility of the Lala Lajpat Rai Memorial Medical College and Hospital at the Meerut district in Uttar Pradesh.

Dr. Dheeraj Baliyan, the superintend of the medical school, officially confirmed the incident to CNN Friday (May 29). Baliyan said that the monkeys took three blood samples from one of the lab assistants.

Dr. S. K. Garg, another official of the college, also said that they had to take another set of blood samples from the patients after the swiping.

The samples are part of a routine blood test asked from people who tested positive for the coronavirus. The hospital emphasized that these are not the COVID-19 swab test samples.

"The samples that were snatched are not testing samples which comprise throat and tongue swab. These were blood samples that are taken from coronavirus patients during routine treatment. The Covid-19 samples are kept in a box, these samples are not," Garg said, per The Indian Express.

india-4393152_1920 Monkeys in India swiped three blood samples of COVID-19 patients, sparking fears of a spread at residential areas. Photo: Pixabay

A video of one of the monkeys was uploaded online, showing the animal chewing on the sample collection kit. Hospital authorities said that they are not sure if any of the blood samples spilled, as locals feared these monkeys may spread the virus in residential areas near the medical college.

India has 173,491 confirmed cases and 4,980 deaths as of May 29, per the John Hopkins University and Medicine. Uttar Pradesh has more than 7,000 cases.

Since the lockdown, stray dogs and monkeys have taken over the streets, foraging for food, and have not been threats to humans. But this latest incident is a surprising development.

"Nobody would have thought that the monkey menace on the medical college campus can actually lead to such a scare," Lucknow Bureau Chief Amir Haque said via The Times of India.

The AFP, however, reported that the medical school officials were able to retrieve the stolen samples.

“They were still intact and we don't think there is any risk of contamination or spread,” Baliyan said.