Several monkeys in Meerut, India — an area close to Delhi — attacked an Indian health worker and stole several COVID-19 blood samples from him, The Guardian reported on Friday morning. Locals began to fear that the monkeys could spill the blood samples and further the spread of the virus after the video footage went viral on social media.
The video showed a monkey sitting in a tree while holding the stolen items, and a few men could be heard trying to coax the monkey down. The report details that one monkey even attempted to “chew its plunder.”
Luckily, the sample boxes were later retrieved from the primates, and were reportedly undamaged.
“They were still intact and we don’t think there is any risk of contamination or spread,” said Dheeraj Raj, the medical superintendent at Meerut College.
Raj also claimed that those patients whose samples had been stolen were retested for the coronavirus.
According to Reuters, the incident happened when a lab technician was walking through the Meerut college campus.
“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,” said college official Dr. S.K. Garg.
Authorities reported that it was not clear if any of the samples had been spilled, but since they were allegedly found undamaged, this is not likely. Garg told Reuters that there was no evidence as to whether or not monkeys can contract the virus if they did come in contact with infected blood.
Experts believe the virus first came from the wildlife market in Wuhan, China, where it may have “jumped from animals into people.”
This incident is not the first regarding hostile monkeys in the country. There has been a surge of primates “increasingly straying into human settlements in India and causing disturbances, even attacking people” in India.
Environmentalists cite the destruction of primate habitats as the main reason for this behavior, as animals begin migrating to “urban areas in search of food.”
Several social media users thought the latest monkey incident was more humorous than scary. Several commenters described the event as just another strange part of 2020, and a few users joked that the story sounded like it could be the beginning of a Planet of the Apes franchise entry.
“Wtf do you mean the monkeys ran away with the test samples?!?! Bro who the f*ck is playing ‘Jumanji’ rn like give us a break please,” tweeted one person.
“Jesus monkeys, not now. Read the room,” wrote another.
— Sanjay Jha (@JhaSanjay07) May 29, 2020