Meanwhile, the Inner Circle, a dating platform for young professionals, reports a 64.5 per cent increase in matches since mid-March in Australia when stricter travel restrictions were imposed.
The number of messages sent by Australians through the platform was up 140 per cent. Globally, there has been a 99 per cent increase in matches and a 116 per cent increase in messages.
John Francis, 39, an IT project manager who lives in Millers Point near the CBD, said he had been spending a lot more time on dating sites, including the Inner Circle and Tinder. He used to get a couple of matches a month but is now getting one a day, progressing from exchanging messages on the platform to phone calls and FaceTime.
Mr Francis, who moved to Sydney a year ago, said he was looking forward to going on dates in real life and had a shortlist of two or three women he would like to meet.
Restrictions eased on Friday to allow up to two adults and any dependent children to visit another household in their home but Mr Francis said this did not help with planning a first date.
“It’s too way early to go to a person’s house,” he said. “I’m a little bit confused as to how to take the next step – I just hope they start opening the restaurants and bars soon.
“You need to keep that spark of interest going for a very long time without actually seeing the person and that is very tough.”
A Sydney lawyer, who asked to remain anonymous, said she had been doing more matching and messaging on dating platforms but would not take the next step until the pandemic risk had abated.
“You would be surprised at the guys who wanted to hook up at the height of the COVID curve, including one who purported to be a radiographer,” she said. “No thanks!”
Professor Mary-Louise McLaws, an epidemiologist from the University of NSW, said a revival of dating could lead to a second wave of infections.
“It’s potentially going to be an amplification if there are any hidden infections out there if people are meeting up with many people that they’ve identified as being of interest to them,” she said.
Professor McLaws said when restrictions ease, people might be asked to stay in the “germ bubble” of their postcode, meaning they could date people from their suburb but not another part of Sydney.
Given most restaurant tables did not span 1.5 metres, she suggested people might go on first dates wearing masks – though she warned they could become “hot and uncomfortable”.
Matchmaker and dating coach Louanne Ward said there would be a lot of time-wasters and scammers on the online platforms at the moment.
“You’ve got a lot of people who are looking for entertainment at the moment, they’ve got no intention of following through,” she said.
“They’re bored and they might be doing it under their partner’s noses – they’re window shopping, they’re tyre kicking, they’re having a look to see if the grass is greener on the other side of the fence.”
Ms Ward also warned romance scammers would be out in force, with the pandemic and lockdown providing the perfect excuse to avoid meeting up in person and the opportunity to invent new and compelling sob stories.
Meanwhile, many people are turning to sex toys to spice up life in lockdown. Adulttoymegastore owner Nicola Relph said sales were “unprecedented”.
NSW was the biggest market for sex toys, with hot spots in Sydney, the Hunter Valley and Coffs Harbour. Melbourne, Mildura and Ballarat were the biggest markets in Victoria.
“We opened in 2009 and nothing has come close to the sales we’ve had in Australia in the past three weeks,” Ms Relph said.
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Caitlin Fitzsimmons is a senior writer for The Sun-Herald, focusing on social affairs.