Monkeys steal Covid-19 test samples from health worker in India

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Blood samples later recovered undamaged after fears incident could have helped spread virus

Monkeys mobbed an Indian health worker and made off with blood samples from coronavirus tests, prompting fears they could have spread the virus in the local area.

After making off with the three samples this week in Meerut, near Delhi, the monkeys scampered up nearby trees and one then tried to chew its plunder.

The sample boxes were later recovered and had not been damaged, the Meerut medical college superintendent, Dheeraj Raj, told AFP on Friday after footage of the incident went viral on social media.

“They were still intact and we don’t think there is any risk of contamination or spread,” Raj said. He said the three people whose samples were stolen had been retested for the virus.

Coronavirus has been detected in animals, though there has been no confirmation that the disease can be passed to humans from them.

India’s coronavirus death toll passed that of neighbouring China on Friday, with 175 new deaths in 24 hours taking the total to 4,706, according to official data.

India, home to some of the world’s most densely populated cities and a creaking healthcare system, is emerging as a new hotspot with record jumps in new cases in recent days.

In many rural areas, farmers regularly lose crops to monkey populations and have demanded local governments intervene to check their populations.

City authorities in Delhi have used long-tailed langur monkeys to scare away smaller primates from around the Indian parliament.

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