The group of monkeys attacked a medical official and snatched away blood samples of patients who had tested positive for the novel coronavirus, authorities said on Friday. The attack occurred this week when a laboratory technician was walking in the campus of a state-run medical college in Meerut, 285 miles north of Lucknow, capital of Uttar Pradesh state. Footage online shows one of the monkeys in a tree with the sample.
Dr 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.”
Authorities said they were not clear if the monkeys had spilled the blood samples, but people living near the leafy campus feared further spread of the virus if the monkeys carried the samples into residential areas.
Dr Gard added it was not clear if the monkeys could contract the coronavirus if they came into contact with infected blood.
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He said: “No evidence has been found that monkeys can contract the infection.”
The virus is believed to have jumped from animals into people in a wildlife market in the Chinese city of Wuhan late last year.
Monkeys have been increasingly straying into human settlements in India and causing disturbances, even attacking people.
Environmentalists say the destruction of natural habitat is the main reason the animals move into urban areas in search of food.
India on Tuesday recorded a total of 145,380 coronavirus infections and a death toll of 4,167, comparatively low figures for the world’s second-most populous country.
But separate states witnessing millions of migrant labourers returning from the big cities were recording rising infections, officials said, fearing that the pandemic could spread through villages where medical care is basic at best.
Health ministry officials said that India’s death rate stood at 0.3 deaths per 100,000 people, compared to what they said was a world average of 4.4.
“We have surprisingly found a low fatality rate in India, which is very good,” said Balram Bhargava, director-general of the Indian Council of Medical Research, in New Delhi.
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Officials from the home and railway ministries said at least 4.5 million workers had migrated home from economic hubs in the two months since Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared a lockdown.
The eastern state of Bihar registered more than 160 infections on Monday, its highest one-day rise, taking its tally to more than 2,700 cases. In the past 48 hours, more than 75 people tested positive in Odisha and 176 in different districts in the desert state of Rajasthan.
The latest cases have forced authorities to stretch limited testing resources.
“Dozens of labourers who travelled from New Delhi have tested positive. We are ensuring that no one enters their village with this infection,” said Gaurav Sinha, a senior health official in Bihar’s capital, Patna.