YouTuber apologises for coronavirus 'hoax' which forced plane to return to airport

A YouTuber has apologised for a prank on board a plane which forced the flight to return to it's departure airport over coronavirus fears.

Canadian Potok Philippe, real name James Potok, was on board the WestJet 2702 flight to Jamaica when police say he announced he had "been to China and has the Coronavirus".

The death toll from the viral pneumonia rose to 563 on Thursday with the number of confirmed cases jumping to 28,018.

Following Mr Potok's announcement, crew on the Canadian airline flight made the decision to turn back to Toronto Pearson International Airport where Mr Potok was escorted off the plane.

In footage from on board the flight, the aspiring rapper is seen being led off the plane by a member of the flight crew.

The social media star, who has more than 35,000 Instagram followers, appears to be wearing blue protective gloves and a face mask.

In a statement, Peel regional police said the 28-year-old was "assessed by medical staff" at Pearson Airport, where he was "deemed to be symptom free."

WestJet said in a statement that the flight was "diverted back to Toronto due to an unruly guest."

The airline added: "We sincerely apologize to the almost 600 guests who were affected by this unfortunate situation."

  • YouTuber apologises for coronavirus prank:

In a video on his Youtube page, Mr Potok apologised for his actions.

The musician said he had "suddenly stood up in the aircraft, turned my phone on, and decided to make a video of my arrival in Jamaica."

He added: "I reached for an attention grabbing word [...] Hunan, China came to mind and I jokingly said 'I just visited there, I don't feel well.'

"The stewardess came to me and asked me to put on masks and gloves and follow her to another seat".

The coronavirus broke out in the city of Wuhan in the central Hubei province of China where travel restrictions have since been enforced.

In his bio on Instagram, Mr Potok has written: #Virus Boy #WuhanClan Credit: Instagram

Mr Potok says he told staff he was "just kidding," but the captain of the WestJet flight told passengers "there has been a coronavirus hoax, we are returning to Toronto".

The rapper wrote: "I'm sorry for the distress and any inconveniences I've caused."

WestJet airline has been approached for comment.

Police have since charged Mr Potock, from Vaughan in Ontario, with Mischief and he will appear at the Ontario Court of Justice in Brampton on March 9, 2020.