SINGAPORE (THE NEW PAPER) - If you thought finding love in Singapore was hard enough, social distancing and self-isolation due to Covid-19 have made dating even more challenging.
A 29-year-old accountant, who wants to be known only as Hannah, has always preferred to meet up with her dates in person and joined local dating agency Lunch Actually in January.
However, two of her dates were cancelled over Covid-19 concerns.
The first man became uncomfortable with meeting a stranger amid the rising number of confirmed cases, while her second date was postponed as he had to be quarantined for being in close contact with a Covid-19 patient.
Miss Hannah told The New Paper: "I am not upset because I understand the situation... Finding a partner is based on destiny. If it is meant to be, then I will meet him regardless of the situation."
Dating agencies TNP spoke to say business has been impacted.
Ms Violet Lim, chief executive officer and co-founder of Lunch Actually, said it set up 20 per cent fewer dates last month compared with previous months, and many members have requested their membership be put on hold. However, the number of inquiries has increased by about 30 per cent since and continued to rise this month.
She said: "It goes to show that singles are still looking to find love, more so than ever."
Another dating agency, GaiGai, has had to postpone its Valentine's Day singles' cruise and will not be organising any large-scale dating events in the coming months, but its CEO and co-founder Alex Tam is "pleasantly surprised that our show-up rate for consultation and coaching has not been affected".
Dating agencies have had to adapt and come up with measures to ensure that singles are still able to continue finding love, like offering one-on-one video consultations and coaching, and virtual video dates.
Dating app Bumble has seen an increase in the use of its video and voice call features, and expects to see a further uptick as people try to battle the loneliness they may feel during self-isolation.
The Social Development Network is also striving to help singles during this period and they can visit its website for information.
Dating service Coffee Meets Bagel (CMB) has held virtual community meet-ups to create a venue for people to share their experiences, and chats that usually expire in seven days have been upgraded to be accessible indefinitely.
Ms Dawoon Kang, CEO and co-founder of CMB, sees a silver lining.
She said: "In this swipe-based world, we have become so used to writing someone off within the first few seconds.
"Take the time to go deeper with one person at a time - give them a proper chance. Slow dating can be a faster way to get to the type of genuine connections you might be looking for."
A 26-year-old dating app user, who works in marketing and wants to be known only as Elizabeth, agreed that the "hook-up culture" associated with dating apps is minimised.
She said: "Instead of jumping straight into meeting, people are chatting longer. So while it is a bit more troublesome to set up dates now, it forces people to connect emotionally and on a non-physical level."
Agencies are also encouraging singles to take this time to upgrade themselves by picking up a new language or skill to possibly come across as more attractive, and to better understand their dating preferences.
If members still insist on meeting in person, the agencies remind them to be socially responsible and advise them to avoid crowded restaurants or cafes.
During these offline dates, it is recommended that singles check their date's travel history, refrain from physical contact and sharing food and utensils, and reschedule if one of them is feeling unwell.
Ms Kang said: "This is a scary and weird time. However, there is nothing more powerful than making connections while weathering it. Scary things are less scary together."