WATCH: Monkey steals COVID-19 patients' blood samples in Meerut

The monkey can be seen chewing on something while up in a tree

monkey vaccine Representational collage of a vaccine and a rhesus macaque monkey (Wikipedia Commons)

India’s COVID warriors face many hazards in the line of their duty, but for lab technicians at the Meerut Medical College, mischievous monkeys could be the limit.

In an incident that has gone viral, lab technicians from the MMC were ambushed by a monkey that managed to snatch away blood samples that they were carrying and escape with them to the neighbouring trees.

“Monkeys grabbed and fled with the blood samples of four COVID-19 patients who are undergoing treatment...we had to take their blood samples again,” Reuters reported Dr S. K. Garg, a top official at the college, as saying.

The incident was then filmed, showing the monkeys chewing on the samples. Fears soon spread that these were the samples of COVID-19 patients.

Garg told ANI that these samples were those of “other routine tests from COVID-19 patients, not swab test for the virus testing”.

According to authorities, it was not yet known whether the monkeys spilled the samples. Whether they are contagious remains to be seen.

Garg later told Reuters that it was not yet known whether monkeys can contract the virus from infected blood.

Monkeys have been used in clinical trials for a COVID-19 vaccine, most notably for the Oxford University COVID-19 vaccine trial. Other studies, including one that tested the effects of remdesivir, have used Rhesus macaques as test subjects. Rhesus macaques are the most common of monkey species in India.

According to the FDA, there are no known cases of COVID-19 being transmitted by blood transfusion.

Meerut had 93 active cases as of May 29, while Uttar Pradesh as a whole had 7,170 cases in total.

Monkeys are notoriously mischievous and during the lockdown have been increasingly reported as breaking into buildings and stealing items during lockdown, according to an AFP report.

In 2018, a group of monkeys stoned a 72-year-old man to death in the village of Tikri, about 55km from Meerut, by throwing bricks at him while he was collecting wood.