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Travel to New York City during COVID-19: What you need to know before you go

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 29: A man looks out at the Manhattan skyline in a Brooklyn neighborhood on September 29, 2020 in New York City. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

(CNN) — If you’re planning to travel to New York City, here’s what you’ll need to know and expect if you want to visit during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The basics

New York City was the US epicenter of the Covid-19 pandemic in March, with hospitals struggling to cope with the influx of patients. After an easier summer, it is now experiencing rising numbers of infections and new lockdown measures have been imposed.

What’s on offer

This is the ultimate citybreak: the greatest city skyline in the world; culture from the Guggenheim to MoMA; spectacular food, from Chinese delicacies in Flushing to Italian delights in the Bronx; and the green (or snowy) sweep of Central Park to the busy Lower East Side.

Who can go

New York is subject to US government rules, meaning travel from Europe’s Schengen area, UK, Ireland, China, Iran and Brazil is not permitted. Exemptions are available for US citizens, family members or permanent residents. Travel from all other countries is allowed.

Additionally, following the discovery of the new variant in the UK, any traveler arriving from the UK must present a negative PCR test before boarding their flight.

Starting January 26, all air travelers entering the United States will be required to have a negative Covid-19 test result.

Travelers from out of state are allowed into New York State, but must undertake a PCR test within three days prior to arrival, then self-isolate for three days, and take another test. Those who choose not to take tests must quarantine for 14 days. Those from states contiguous to New York are exempt from the testing regime, but must fill out a form.

What are the restrictions?

New York City has stringent measures for those traveling both domestically and internationally. Those from contiguous states are not subject to testing or quarantine restrictions, but travelers from all other US states must undertake a PCR test within three days prior to arrival, then self-isolate for three days, before taking another test.

International travelers from destinations with Level 2 risk and higher, as defined by the CDC’s Travel Health Notice, must follow the same rules. Full instructions can be found on the Covid-19 travel advisory site.

And as of January 26, every air traveler entering the US will need a negative Covid-19 test result. Passengers will be required to get a viral test within three days before their flight to the US departs, and to provide written documentation of their lab results, or documentation of having recovered from Covid-19.

All those staying in hotels and short-term rentals in New York must complete a Traveler Health Form before their arrival.

Travelers who leave New York State to a noncontiguous state for less than 24 hours do not have to take a test before returning. However, they must fill out a traveler health form and take a test four days after their return.

What’s the Covid situation?

The situation in New York City is worsening, with over 26,000 deaths registered as of January 20. After months of falling cases, the city has seen rising infection and death rates. Daily cases rose above 10,000 in December, having dropped below 500 in August.

What can visitors expect?

New York’s busy streets fell quiet at the start of the pandemic and recovery has been slow in the months since, although many areas, including Brooklyn, are busy again. Indoor dining, while previously allowed at 25% capacity, was paused in New York City on December 14. However, outdoor dining continues, with restaurants and bars building ad hoc structures. Tent enclosures and heating are being used over the winter. Bars must close at 10 p.m.

Museums are open, but have started mandating timed reservations, in a bid to comply with lower capacity rules. MoMA, the Natural History Museum and the Whitney are all operating a policy of pre-bought tickets only. Visitors should expect temperature checks on arrival.

Nonessential retail is open. Masks are mandatory in public, however, and social distancing guidelines must be adhered to at all times.

Useful links

New York State Covid-19 microsite

CDC Travel Health

New York State Traveler Health Form