Confirm you don’t have any Covid-19 symptoms, swear you haven’t been in contact with anyone who’s been overseas in the past 14 days, and sanitise your hands at the door.
Think back to March, and that was a familiar checklist for going pretty much anywhere – including your date’s bedroom, as Hazel Davies found out.
As the country careered towards level 4, the 32-year-old Aucklander was figuring out how much she liked her new Tinder match.
On their first date they bonded over the card game 500. Faced with the prospect of weeks with just flatmates for company, it was enough to make a hook-up health check worth it.
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Despite Covid-19 putting the brakes on real-life dating, swiping on dating apps peaked in lockdown. On March 29 – as most of the world retreated indoors – Tinder users made 3 billion swipes worldwide, the most the app has ever recorded in a single day.
In New Zealand, intro messages sent on OkCupid during the first week of level 4 were up 14 per cent on the week prior.
Davies said she braved one virtual first date, an ill-fated 15 minutes that left her glad she hadn’t left the house or put any effort into her appearance from the waist down. During Lockdown 2.0, true love felt like it was burgeoning with a new app match, only for there to be “zero sexy vibes” when the pair met in real life.
But with her pre-lockdown Tinder beau, things progressed in a way they only could have in 2020: to weekly online games nights. Every Tuesday, they would pair up with another couple to play 500, sometimes in fancy dress.
“The 500 games brought us closer to one another than any dating would have because we would have been distracted by wanting to touch bodies.”
By the time lockdown lifted, the desire to touch bodies was extinguished. He’s now “super in the friend zone”, but the 500 nights – now in person – have survived.
We found love in a hopeless place
Locked down in a friend’s caravan in Raglan, Greta Biggs spent up to four hours a day video calling the man she’d met for the second time just days before level 4.
The pair first met at New Year’s, but almost immediately afterwards he went overseas, returning months later to a country braced for lockdown.
The timing of their reunion meant Biggs, 30, was thrown into “all this intimate family stuff”.
One of their first proper dates was grocery shopping; his parents were due to arrive from Mexico and had to self-isolate, and they needed supplies. Then she wound up at the airport, meeting them in a “crazy distanced way”.
But after a few intense days, they had to lockdown separately and continue getting to know each other via video calls. Biggs said that while she would normally work out a lot from dates – “what they actually like doing and what ways we fit together” – they only had their words and facial expressions on a screen.
“We didn’t know if it was going to work in the real world.”
Their real-world reunion was barefoot on a roadside between Raglan and Auckland, where they “just hugged for ages and ages”.
Then it was straight into living together – out of necessity as much as choice thanks to Covid-19 disrupting Biggs’ work. It was a period spent “totally falling in love and having a wonderful time”, soured only by the stress of making ends meet.
Just after the second lockdown, she asked him to move to Wellington, and weeks later they were building their new life together in the capital.
Without Covid-19, Biggs said she suspected the end result of their relationship would be similar, “but the route there would have been much different and much slower”.
Going the distance
Long-distance was never supposed to be a permanent thing for Tara George and her Australian boyfriend Tim Vaughn.
But when the 26-year-old came home to New Zealand to start med school in February, the borders soon closed behind her, trapping her boyfriend on the other side of the Tasman.
For nine months, they’ve only seen each other on a phone screen – but FaceTime has been their saviour. Every couple of weeks they’ll have date nights, dressing up and cooking the same meal.
But video calls also mean they’re there for the mundane parts of each other’s lives. He’ll prop the phone in the garden while he’s mowing the lawn, and she’ll put it to one side when she’s studying, and they’ll call each other from the supermarket.
Being apart has been really hard, George said, made harder with every knock back from Immigration. But with the transtasman bubble open, she’ll fly over in a couple of weeks to stay for the summer.
With that on the horizon, she’s able to focus on the silver lining of their time apart: how close it’s brought them, across the distance.
“If you can get through this you can get through anything.”