Man arrested for 'selfish' coronavirus prank on Jamaica-bound flight

The Canadian reportedly took selfies "as a hoax to post on YouTube". Photo credit: Getty Images
The Canadian reportedly took selfies "as a hoax to post on YouTube". Photo credit: Getty Images

A Canadian man was arrested on Monday after forcing a flight from Toronto to Jamaica to turn back after yelling he had coronavirus.

The 29-year-old passenger was given a mask and gloves, and moved to the rear of the WestJet plane where another traveller reported he started taking selfies "as a hoax to post on YouTube".

The man was charged with mischief after the plane with 243 other passengers turned back two hours into its journey and a second flight was cancelled as a result of the virus scare.

Canada has four confirmed cases of coronavirus with more than 24,000 cases reported worldwide and the death toll in mainland China at 490 as of Tuesday.

Peel Regional Police says the man - who is yet to be named - stood up to tell crew and passengers he had recently been to China and now had the virus.

"That announcement was shared by the flight crew to the captain and a decision was made for the plane to return back to Pearson [International Airport]," Const Bancroft Wright told CBC News.

In a statement a WestJet spokesperson confirmed the man made "an unfounded claim regarding coronavirus".

Fellow passenger Julie-Anne Broderick told CBC News the man's actions were "selfish".

"We were very confused and worried," she says.

"I guess this guy thought it was a funny joke but it's just really weird... we've lost a day of our vacation."

Broderick posted on Facebook that "Jamaica and the US wouldn't accept our flight so back to Canada we came where he was detained for a federal offence".

The Ontario man will appear in court in March.

Julie-Anne Broderick was on the flight forced to turn back after the coronavirus hoax. Photo credit: Facebook
Julie-Anne Broderick was on the flight forced to turn back after the coronavirus hoax. Photo credit: Facebook
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