Ex-councillor self-isolates in Covid scare

Wayne Smith self-isolates at his Lynbrook home. Photo: CONTRIBUTED

By Brendan Rees

An ex-Casey councillor is quarantining after coming into contact with two youths in police custody who tested positive to Covid-19.

Wayne Smith said he had been assisting police in his volunteer duties as a bail justice and an independent person when he came into close contact with the male youth offenders, both aged 17, at Cranbourne and Dandenong police stations.

The boys, who were arrested for car-related offences on Saturday 25 July, tested positive to the virus after attending the Melbourne Youth Justice Centre in Parkville.

Mr Smith, who served more than 25 years as councillor with City of Casey, said he got a call from the Department of Health and Human Services on Sunday afternoon 26 July advising him of the positive tests and was directed to enter self-isolation for 14 days.

The next day Mr Smith, 61, said he had tested negative to a Covid-19 test but would require a second test on his eleventh day of quarantine. He added he hadn’t been experiencing any Covid-19 symptoms.

Mr Smith said his scare unfolded after being called to Cranbourne police station to assess the suitability of one of the boys for bail placement in his role as a bail justice following the pair’s arrest.

He then received a call from Dandenong police at 2am the following morning on Sunday 26 July to act as an independent person in a police interview with the second boy, who had earlier required attendance at Dandenong Hospital following his arrest.

Independent persons are volunteers with the Youth Referral and Independent Person Program, who are required to attend police interviews to support people under 18 whose parents or guardian may not be available.

Mr Smith said he had spent about half-an-hour with the boy in the interview room as well as additional time in another room where police fingerprinted the boy.

However, Mr Smith said he was “reasonably confident” of not being infected as his contact was “deemed as low risk”.

“Everyone was in masks including the young people and there was distancing,” he said.

Mr Smith is strictly forbidden from leaving his Lynbrook home where he was living separate from family members. He said the only exception for leaving his home was for medical emergencies.

“It was annoying that you’re doing the right thing … you’re volunteering and you’re trying to do a good deed and then that happens,” Mr Smith said.

“As volunteers we’re risking their own health and safety to do what they love doing.”

Mr Smith said he had enough food supplies and had topped up his freezers with family and friends also offering to deliver essential items.

“I’ve been really impressed and pleased with people checking in. We’re pretty lucky we’ve got a caring community.”

Meanwhile, Mr Smith said he was keeping busy working from home as an outreach youth support worker at the Monash Children’s Hospital.

“I’m busy from the time my work day starts at 8.30 with Webex conferences, I go all day,” he said.

“I can’t complain I’m bored … the weekend might be a bit different.”

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