In a bizarre incident in one of Uttar Pradesh's largest government hospitals, a monkey attacked a lab technician, snatched vials containing blood samples from three coronavirus patients and escaped. In a video of the incident, that has circulated on social media, the monkey can be seen sitting atop a tree in the hospital premises, trying to eat what looks like surgical gloves he stole along with the samples.
The incident took place three days ago in west Uttar Pradesh's Meerut Medical College and Hospital. The hospital is a nodal centre for the treatment of COVID patients and also has a testing lab.
Hospital authorities have admitted to the incident, but clarified that the samples were not throat swabs used to confirm COVID positivity in a person, but regular blood samples taken from already infected patients being treated here.
"These were not COVID test samples, but blood samples from COVID patients meant for routine tests. The man from whom the samples were snatched said fresh samples have been collected," Dr SK Garg, principal of Meerut Medical College and Hospital, said.
"Coronavirus samples are stored and transported in cold chain boxes, not in the open," Dr Garg said, indicating that chances of throat swab samples meeting a similar fate was unlikely and people living in the hospitals' vicinity need not fear the spread of the highly infectious disease because of the incident.
The doctor further said there is no scientific study which shows the novel coronavirus can spread to monkeys from humans.
However, coronavirus infections have been reported in very few animals worldwide, mostly in those that had close contact with a person with COVID-19, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said.