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The astonishing smash-and-grab raid happened near the Meerut Medical College in Indian capital New Delhi. Local media said the monkey bandits launched their attack and then snatched COVID-19 blood test samples from four patients before making their escape. One of the monkeys was later spotted in a tree chewing one of the sample collection kits.
Monkeys grabbed and fled with the blood samples of four COVID-19 patients
Dr SK Garg
Dr SK Garg, a top official at the college, said: “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.
“No evidence has been found that monkeys can contract the infection.”
The highly intelligent, red-faced rhesus macaques have been quick to take advantage of India’s nationwide coronavirus lockdown and appear to have been emboldened by the crisis.
They have been seen congregating in parts of the city normally crowded with humans.
The monkeys have adapted to live in close contact with their human neighbours but some groups have struggled in the absence of human food they had come to rely on.
People have been advised not to feed the monkeys while the pandemic continues, with experts suggesting doing so could cause the virus to mutate and infect primates.
A senior biologist from the Tamil Nadu Forest Department previously warned that if this did happen, the mutated virus could have a devastating impact on primate species and other wildlife which prey on them.
He said: “The point is, we have very little understanding of the virus, and it is better to limit our interactions with wildlife until there is more research done on its effects on non-human primates and other animal species.”
Reports have previously emerged of the primates causing chaos in Delhi, snatching food and mobile telephones, breaking into homes and terrorising people in and around the Indian capital.
They have colonised areas around the city’s parliament and the sites of key ministries, from the prime minister’s office to the finance and defence ministries, scaring both civil servants and the public.
Home Office staffer Ragini Sharma said: “Very often they snatch food from people as they are walking, and sometimes they even tear files and documents by climbing in through the windows.”
Earlier this month a red-faced rhesus macaque raided a cashpoint in New Delhi.
Police near the Indian presidential palace were called to a State Bank of India ATM just when a customer found the cash machine with the front torn off — although nothing had apparently been taken.
Suspecting a botched robbery, police reviewed security footage and discovered a monkey was responsible.
CCTV footage shows the curious primate hopping on top of the ATM and tugging away before uncovering the hardware inside.
A police source said: “A banker who arrived at the kiosk found it broken and raised an alarm suspecting it to be a case of robbery.
“The CCTV footage was examined later which unearthed the mischief of the primate.”
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