Coronavirus prank forces Jamaica-bound flight back to Canada
Westjet Airline

A passenger jet taking winter-weary Canadians to Jamaica for a sunny holiday was forced to turn back after a passenger falsely claimed to have the coronavirus, the airline said Tuesday.

The Westjet flight to Montego Bay was diverted to Toronto on Monday "due to an unruly guest," spokesman Morgan Bell told AFP.

"Out of an abundance of caution, our crew followed all protocols for infectious disease on board, including sequestering an individual who made an unfounded claim regarding coronavirus," he said.

According to reports, the man stood almost halfway through the four-hour flight carrying 243 passengers and, while taking selfies, declared that he had contracted the virus that has infected more than 20,400 and killed 425.

Flight attendants gave him a mask and gloves and ordered him to the back of the plane.

"I guess this guy thought it was a funny joke but it's just really weird. We were all very frustrated, to just displace 240 people ... it's just so selfish," passenger Julie-Anne Broderick told public broadcaster CBC.

"We've lost a day of our vacation," she lamented.

Police and public health officials met the flight on arrival in Toronto.

Peel Regional Police confirmed a 29-year-old man from Thornhill, Ontario was arrested and has been charged with mischief.

Meanwhile, another flight was booked to take the passengers to Jamaica Tuesday morning and bring back those left stranded in Montego Bay after their return flight on Monday was also cancelled.