A report from India details a bizarre incident where a group of monkeys decided to mob a health worker and escape with samples of Covid-19. The animals were supposedly spotted later chewing the stolen testing kits while resting in a tree but, thankfully, when the samples were recovered they showed no signs of damage.
The group of primates descended upon a member of staff working at the Meerut Medical College in Delhi, India, that was testing suspected Covid-19 patients. After jumping the lab worker, they ran off with three blood samples from coronavirus tests.
On the loose with the potentially contagious blood samples, it was feared the gang of escapees could have caused further spread of the virus in the local area. Fortunately, the sample boxes were able to be recovered and didn’t show any signs of damage despite claims the monkeys had been chewing on them in a nearby tree.
“They were still intact and we don’t think there is any risk of contamination or spread,” said Dheeraj Raj, the Meerut Medical College superintendent, according to a report from The Guardian. The owners of the three samples are said to have since been tested again for Covid-19.
The suspects were red-faced rhesus macaques who, while an expressive and charismatic species, are somewhat infamous for roaming around parts of India in unruly gangs. Listed as of species of least concern on the IUCN Red List, red-faced rhesus macaque numbers are booming in India to the extent that in rural areas some farmers are losing their crops to out-of-control monkey populations and have sought out local governments, pleading they intervene in controlling wild macaque populations.
As terrifying a concept as a group of rowdy primates running amock with Covid-19 samples is, it seems the bizarre incident can be filed under the “all’s well that ends well” category as no SARS-CoV-2 escaped and the lab worker was unharmed. That said, if you ever see a group of monkeys charging towards you clutching vials of red fluid, it’s probably still best to scarper. If the Rage Virus in 28 Days Later is anything to go by, primates armed with infectious diseases usually only ever ends in tears.