The concerned families living in the Meath village of Ratoath couldn't wait any longer for the HSE.
They knew they had been in close contact with someone who had tested positive for Covid-19 and as they anxiously waited for a call from public health, option B became more and more attractive.
One by one they called a private testing company and, for a princely sum, a paramedic arrived at their homes and tested everyone. The results came back within a few days; some were negative, others were not.
"My son was in contact with a positive case and I was told I would get a call from contact tracing in the HSE," said one woman, who spoke to the Irish Independent anonymously.
"It never came so I phoned the number for private testing and he came out at 1130pm and did the test. Two days after that, the HSE contact tracer called. It's totally chaotic.
"In another family, a mother who tested positive via a HSE test is still waiting on a contact tracing call for her husband and daughter, who live with her."
While some have opted for the mobile testing service, other Ratoath locals have gone to a drive-through private facility, where express tests use the "Lamp" method of detection. It is not recognised for Covid-19 diagnosis by the HSE and, as a result, positive tests are not traced. An alarming increase in the number of Covid cases in Ratoath, say locals, has caused widespread anxiety and panic.
Of the positive cases emerging, some aren't going into the public health system. Others are being traced too slowly, and more still aren't being traced at all.
An atmosphere of fear and mistrust has engulfed the community, with parents pulling children out of the local school and well-known businesses shutting their doors. It's a situation that might well be a microcosm for what is happening nationwide, as Tony Holohan conceded on Thursday night that the scale of infection is now beyond the capacity of any level of resourced contact tracing process.
The comments, made during a National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) press briefing, came after Dr Holohan wrote to Heath Minister Stephen Donnelly recommending a nationwide move to Level 5 restrictions for six weeks. Two weeks after a similar recommendation, it was a move that came as no surprise to UCC Professor Gerry Killeen.
"The numbers have gone too big for anything other than Level 5," he said.
"We need to throw a fire blanket on it now and six weeks of Level 5 won't be enough. It is going to take longer than that based on the numbers.
"With any pathogen like this - Ebola, Sars, whatever - there is limit to what you can do with contact tracing. That's why the world moves heaven and earth to contain Ebola outbreaks because if they get too big, we are in trouble.
"You need to get them down to a certain size before contact tracing can really kick in. For all the limitations of our system, there is no contact tracing system in the world that could cope with what we are dealing with now."
On June 30, Ireland reported the lowest 14-day incidence of Covid-19 cases in western Europe. According to Prof Killeen, who worked in Haiti during the Zika outbreak and has extensive experience of lockdowns there, it all went downhill from there.
"Since late June the numbers started to creep up and that rate of growth stayed rock steady," he said.
"The trajectory since the summer was always going to take us to where we are today. We took the foot off the gas in June and didn't finish the job. Cork was six weeks away from zero in June and Donegal had been Covid free for two weeks.
"Even if it had entered the 40-day countdown, Donegal would have been declared Covid free in a month. We should have got the virus down to zero or close to it. That's when your public health teams, not contact tracers but trained physicians, would have been in a position to snuff out any new outbreaks that arise.
"In epidemiology we call it a sticky end point. It's hard to get there, but once you are it's much easier to manage And that's what we need to do after this Level 5 lockdown. Otherwise we are just in a roller-coaster, where we spend a lot of it in and out of lockdowns."
Antony Staines, professor of health systems at DCU, says the virus was out of control a month ago.
"We lost control around the first week of September," he said. "If you look at Nphet's own data and models that Philip Nolan has been producing, they show a steady, continuous rise. It had been going up slowly since August, but it starts going up faster in September and keeps going at that pace until October. If anything, it has gone up faster in the last couple of days. Nphet's models predicted it."
A move to Level 5 must be implemented without delay, says Prof Staines.
'The Government had been very good with supports to date. It's now necessary to put the funds in place to support a lengthy period of restrictions. If that means we have to borrow, so be it. We are facing a scenario where either the healthcare system totally collapses, or we accept serious restrictions."
The focus is on hospitals and intensive care units where difficult decisions may have to be made.
"That's the ultimate fear for public health professionals," said Catherine Motherway, consultant in intensive care medicine at the University of Limerick.
"Thankfully it hasn't come to that, but nobody can be confident in the face of a global pandemic. We have already seen what this can do to one of the better-resourced healthcare systems in Italy.
"We need to accept that we can't live like we used to. I don't think people have fully accepted that.
"We are coming into winter, the evenings will be dark and it's depressing but it may be necessary. If we want to meet up carefully and safely at Christmas this may be what is necessary now. That might be the payoff."
Irish News Premium
It's been two years since I made the choice to return to Ireland and live by myself. After four years in London, I'd grown sick of the endless noise of the city, the uncaring crowds of people and the lack of any personal space on the tube. So when the opportunity arose to move back to Dublin and have a place to myself by the sea, it seemed like a perfect fit.