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Holiday

Adventure holidays: Dive in to the coolest underwater wonders

For those who do want to enjoy a spot of diving or snorkelling, you can find weird and wonderful sites ranging from ancient cities to sunken Boeing aircraft. Prepare for a dose of wanderlust as we take a look at the world’s coolest underwater attractions…

1. DOS OJOS CENOTE, MEXICO

The “Two Eyes Cenote” has earned its name thanks to two sinkholes that form the cenote, joined by a 1,300ft-long passageway. It’s also one of Mexico’s largest underwater cave systems.

There’s an impressive amount of light that reaches the waters making them crystal-clear, and therefore a big hit with snorkelling and diving fans. cenotesmexico.org

2. SHICHENG, CHINA

Dubbed the “Atlantis of the East”, Shicheng is an ancient city which sits about 85-130ft below the surface. Once a thriving city, the valley in which it is located was flooded more than 1,300 years ago.

It’s a popular diving site, mainly because the water has protected the stone architecture from wind and sun erosion. Nowadays you can take guided tours to get close to the ruins, although you will need to be a good diver for this one. cnto.org.uk

3. ITHAA UNDERSEA RESTAURANT, THE MALDIVES

The Conrad Maldives Rangali Island hotel offers up a dining experience unlike any other – right in those picture-perfect ocean waters the Maldives are renowned for.The restaurant sits under the sea and has glass walls and ceiling so diners can take in views of the marine life that thrives around the shores, as well as the eye-catching coral gardens. conradmaldives.com

4. DIVE BAHRAIN

Bahrain’s new underwater museum opened in 2019 and features a sunken Boeing 747 jet for divers to explore.

The 230ft-long plane was submerged underwater on purpose, as part of the new attraction which will also boast 25 acres of activities and trails for divers, ranging from colourful artificial reefs to underwater sculptures.

One diver shared a video as he explored the site and while it doesn’t have much marine life at the moment, it’s still pretty impressive. divebahrain.com

5. CANCUN UNDERWATER MUSEUM OF ART, MEXICO

Usually art museums involve large galleries you wander through – but this one is completely submerged under water, so you’ll need to dive down and swim along.

There are more than 500 life-size sculptures to discover, all of which have been built to promote coral life.

You can explore through snorkelling and diving, but if you don’t want to get in the water there are glass-bottom-boat tours that offer a glimpse of the artwork. musamexico.org

6. SWEEPSTAKES SHIPWRECK, CANADA

Lake Huron in Ontario is where you’ll find the shipwreck of Sweepstakes, a schooner that hit a rock near Cove Island. It was towed to the nearby lake where it sank in the shallow water.

Nowadays you can snorkel or dive to get up close, while the picture-perfect landscape around the lake is worth a visit alone. ontariotravel.net

7. UNDERWATER WATERFALL, MAURITIUS

On the island’s southwestern coast sits a spectacular underwater waterfall. It’s actually the result of sand and silt on the ocean floor forming an illusion of a waterfall – but the strong currents mean this one is best admired from afar.

If you want to witness the natural phenomenon then you won’t be getting into the water – the best way to see it is from the air, and there are plenty of seaplane and helicopter tours on offer. tourismmauritius.mu

8. THE GREEN LAKE, AUSTRIA

In the winter, the lake has depths of around 3-6ft, and is surrounded by a picturesque park.

However, come summertime, as the surrounding mountain ice melts, the lake fills up and the park is submerged, creating depths of up to 40ft. Oh, and thanks to the lush landscape, the waters boast a dazzling emerald green shade. austria.info

9. SCULPTURE PARK, GRENADA

This underwater gallery of sculptures sits in a marine-protected area, and the striking artworks double up as artificial reefs, drawing in an impressive array of marine life.

There are heaps of sculptures of life-size people in various activities, from sitting at a desk in front of a typewriter to a circle of children playing a game. puregrenada.com

10. UNDERWATER POST OFFICE, VANUATU

Forget writing a traditional postcard – at the Hideaway Island marine sanctuary in the South Pacific you can send special waterproof messages to your loved ones from the underwater post office.

The hotspot is available to snorkellers and divers, and it makes for a quirky photo opp too. vanuatu.travel/au/

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Cruises

American Queen Steamboat Company Partners With Ochsner Health

WHY IT RATES: Ochsner Health will conduct assessments of the American Queen, American Duchess and American Countess and will work with AQSC on implementing disease prevention and mitigation strategies. —Janeen Christoff, TravelPulse Senior Writer

American Queen Steamboat Company (AQSC), a Hornblower Family Company, is partnering with Ochsner Health by implementing Ochsner’s Safe to Return Employer Solutions to help improve and maintain a healthy and safe return of guests and crew to its paddlewheelers.

Ochsner Health will conduct assessments of the American Queen, American Duchess and American Countess and will work with AQSC on implementing disease prevention and mitigation strategies across the entire AQSC fleet.

Another hallmark of this program is the real-time access to infectious disease experts within the Ochsner Health system should a need arise. AQSC will be announcing details on a healthcare partner for its Pacific Northwest itineraries onboard the American Empress in the coming weeks.

As part of Ochsner Safe to Return Employer Solutions, Ochsner Health will reassess the AQSC vessels on a monthly basis and provide updated recommendations as needed based on scientific data and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations.

As a result of the partnership with Ochsner Health recommendations, AQSC will implement the following actions:

—Offer a Virtual Employer Clinic, powered by TytoCare, so employees and guests, if necessary, can virtually talk to a healthcare professional without disembarking.

—Provide access to infectious disease experts within the Ochsner Health system.

—Utilize Ochsner Health personnel to oversee the pre-boarding screening process and assessments on all itineraries embarking in New Orleans, LA. AQSC will identify healthcare partners for the additional turn ports of call.

—Engage Ochsner Health to conduct monthly assessments of the AQSC health and safety protocols and make adjustments as needed.

“We are thrilled to have this ongoing support from Ochsner Health and their expert-team of providers,” shares John Waggoner, founder and CEO of American Queen Steamboat Company. “By partnering with Ochsner Health, we are able to provide added preventative measures to our already increased diligence in guest and crew safety.”

Along with the Ochsner partnership, AQSC unveiled new health and safety protocols being implemented across all vessels including pre-cruise screenings, crew screenings, updated boarding processes, increased sanitation measures, enhanced technologies and an onboard telehealth capability. Technology highlights include MXP Protect, which incorporates the use of thermal imaging. These new policies and practices will be implemented when AQSC resumes its operations.

Victory Cruise Lines, operated by AQSC, will implement similar health and safety protocols as the AQSC fleet when it resumes its operations on the Great Lakes and Canadian Maritimes.

To ensure the safety and comfort of both guests and crew, AQSC and VCL are staying current with guidance, mandates and public health advancements communicated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), United State Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), United State Coast Guard (USGC) and the municipalities each vessel visits.

Below you will find an overview of the new health and safety protocols.

Pre-Cruise Screening

Prior to embarkation, all guests and crew will be required to complete a health and safety questionnaire and a medical travel screening survey. At the pre-cruise hotel, medical personnel will perform a health screening on each guest, including a temperature check, and will deny boarding to anyone that may pose a health risk. The 24-hour window between the pre-cruise hotel stay and vessel embarkation allows the AQSC and VCL crew and guests time to make any necessary adjustments following the pre-cruise screening. No guests or crew will be allowed to check-in directly on the vessel without having completed the above described pre-cruise screenings. Details on each vessel’s onboard sanitation and safety procedures will also be provided to all guests and crew prior to boarding.

Boarding Procedures and Gangway Screening

Once guests and crew are cleared during the pre-cruise screening process, embarkation will be conducted via one controlled access point where thermal cameras will take the temperature of each guest and crew member boarding the vessel in addition to the manual temperature checks completed in the pre-cruise screening. The onboard medical representative will conduct the gangway screening, complete the health and safety survey and provide reports to the Master and each Hotel Director.

AQSC and VCL will require a 24-hour notice for anyone that needs access to the vessel and has not been pre-screened during hotel screening, including guests, crew, visitors and contractors.

Screening and Monitoring During the Cruise

Trained staff will maintain protocols and observe guests and crew for symptoms throughout the voyage. The Master and medical representative will respond to medical calls, practice quarantine procedures and utilize shoreside medical facilities for passenger and crew as necessary. If a guest or crew member has an elevated temperature, they will be evaluated by the medical representative before being allowed to board the vessel. Any guest or crew who has an elevated temperature, shows signs or symptoms of illness or that vessel management feels needs further assessment will be sent directly to a local medical care partner for evaluation and testing. In addition, guests or crew who test positive for any contagious condition will not be allowed to rejoin the vessel.

The vessels’ access points will be monitored and controlled at all times. Utilizing the cutting-edge technology from MXP Protect, AQSC will be able to efficiently and effectively monitor all critical areas of operation with thermal scanning. All guests and crew will be passively monitored by thermal imaging when returning to the vessel in addition to random manual screening. In the event of a confirmed positive case on board, AQSC and VCL will manually screen 100 percent of all individuals coming and going from the vessel.

Onboard and Additional Medical Resources

Through the partnership with Ochsner Health, guests and crew can take advantage of the onsite Virtual Employer Clinic, powered by TytoCare. The Virtual Employer Clinic allows guests and crew to remotely see an Ochsner Health physician without leaving the vessel. In addition, each vessel in the AQSC and VCL fleets carries a certified onboard medical representative to assist guests with urgent medical care, implement quarantine procedures and coordinate shoreside medical assistance. The tele-health capabilities combined with the already onboard medical representative provides guests with a heightened level of onboard care. In an emergency, AQSC and VCL have the ability to quickly transfer guests and crew to emergency medical services ashore by coordinating pick-up at municipal landings and docking facilities.

Cleaning Procedures

Increased sanitation of all contact services such as handrails, tables, chairs, desks, work surfaces, door handles, telephones and elevator controls in both the front and back of house will be conducted hourly with an all-chlorine solution that meets or exceeds EPA standards. All public and crew spaces will be fogged twice daily and multi-purpose disinfecting wipes will be made available in staterooms for all guests.

Restaurant Areas: All self-service buffets are suspended, and waiters will be stationed at buffet stations to serve food to guests. Crew will minimize guest touchpoints by manually entering cabin numbers rather than using guest swipe cards and by replacing all communal items such as salt/pepper pots, sugar bowls and butter bowls with single-serve packets. All tables, chairs and countertops will be sanitized on the hour or when vacated by the guest, and menus will be printed on single-use paper and discarded after each use. All table items will be removed each time a table is vacated. All crockery, glassware and cutlery will be washed even if unused.

Bar Department: All self-service areas are now suspended, and individual bowls of bar snacks will be available upon request. Increased sanitation in accordance with the restaurant guidelines outlined above will also be implemented.

Deck Department: The Chief Officer will arrange for all deck rails, public swimming pools, the gangway and other external hardpoints to be thoroughly sanitized at least every hour when in use, with the gangway sanitation occurring every half-hour when in use.

Shore Excursions and Motorcoaches: A reduced number of guests will be transported on each motorcoach, targeting a maximum 52 percent capacity, to allow for adequate space between individuals. All bus seats, windows and handrails will be sanitized with an EPA-recommended solution each day before the first guests arrive and every hour when in use. Liquid hand sanitation dispensers will be available at the door for all guests. All shore excursions will be conducted within the guidelines of the local municipalities visited.

Staterooms: Cabin staff will clean and sanitize all surfaces of the stateroom and utilize an EPA-approved disinfectant spray, as well as the cutting-edge Protexus Electrostatic Sprayer equipment to fog staterooms daily.

SOURCE: American Queen Steamboat Company press release.

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Destinations

Could US Virgin Islands See Tourism Boost if New Marijuana Bill Passes?

U.S. Virgin Islands Governor Albert Bryan, Jr. resubmitted a revamped version of his proposed U.S. Virgin Islands Medicinal Cannabis Patient Act, which would enable travelers 21 and older to purchase marijuana in the destination.

While medical marijuana has been legal in the USVI since January 2019, government delays have hindered its implementation, according to Vibe High.

The revised act would be used to generate funds for the USVI’s Government Employees Retirement System (GERS) while also helping to jumpstart the economy when the coronavirus is suppressed.

It’s a move that travel agents and advisors have mixed feelings on, but many still see how it would be able to boost tourism if it passes.

“Honestly, the USVI [and other] Caribbean Islands would all benefit from legalizing weed. People are on vacation. They are there to relax. Drinking and weed are the go-to drugs,” said Katie Kapel of Mode Travel Agency. “I am not saying I necessarily agree with that, but that is the reality of legalizing marijuana. I mean, what country wouldn’t benefit from that from a travel and tourism standpoint?”

Ryan Doncsecz of VIP Vacations called the USVI news “all good to me,” adding that it would invariably help travel advisors make more sales while also putting a halt to “arresting people who are pretty much harmless.”

James Berglie of Be All Inclusive had a more tempered view. “I think overall our society is becoming more accepting of pot,” he said. “I don’t think it really has a big impact on where people choose to vacation, though. As we all know, in any destination just about any drug is fully available to those who will make it a priority to find them if they really want them.”

Sarah Kline of Time for Travel was more enthusiastic about the news. “I think legalizing marijuana in the USVI would be an enormous boost to that region. I live in Maryland where basically pot is legal and we have many clients ask about destinations that allow pot,” she said. “I’ve arranged trips for clients to Colorado and Alaska based on pot tourism. Jamaica is our No. 1 destination and for many, being able to buy and consume pot there is the big draw.”

In 2015, Jamaica approved a marijuana decriminalization law. Possession of two ounces or less is no longer considered an offense for which a person can be arrested, charged and tried in court.

Meanwhile, under the revised U.S. Virgin Islands Medicinal Cannabis Patient Act, adult-use permits of $25 would be required, and adult-use permit holders would not be permitted to grow cannabis.

Medical Cannabis Dispensaries would be allowed to sell no more than seven grams of medical cannabis, three grams of medical cannabis concentrate or 500 milligrams of medical cannabis products per day to non-residents.

For residents, the requirements would be one ounce of medical cannabis, 10 grams of medical cannabis concentrate or 2,000 milligrams of medical cannabis products.

“Consideration of this proposed bill is exigent given that the principal benefit of the revenues derived from [it] are directed to assisting the stoppage of the hemorrhaging of the GERS,” Bryan said, noting that 75 percent of the funds would be distributed GERS.

“It is also important that we utilize the present time while we are putting our economy back together in readiness for the post-COVID pandemic environment, to put this revenue mechanism in place,” he said.

All things considered, destinations that have legalized or decimalized cannabis are developing lucrative revenue streams from marijuana tourism—a case in point being Colorado.

For agents and advisors, the burgeoning marijuana tourism industry is a viable way in which to increase their revenues as well.

Arguably, it’s a win-win for travel advisors and destinations alike.

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Cruises

Temptation Cancun Resort and Desire Riviera Maya Resort to Reopen in June

Original Group will reopen its Desire Riviera Maya Resort on June 4 and the Temptation Cancun Resort on June 10. Its Desire Riviera Maya Pearl Resort will reopen on July 1, and any guests booked at this resort will be transferred to Desire Riviera Maya Resort.

Leading up to the reopening, the resort company will implement new sanitation and safety protocols at all three properties.

“We have spent the last month undertaking preparations and consulting with local and international organizations to make sure our enhanced safety measures are up to the highest standards,” said Rodrigo de la Pena, CEO of Original Group. “We look forward to welcoming back guests and are confident that we will all adapt to our ‘new normal’ with minimal disruptions to the Temptation and Desire Experience.”

Temptation’s Sexy & Sanitized and Desire’s Seductive & Sanitized protocols are detailed on each brand’s website in print and in video format.

The new measures include daily health screenings and temperature monitoring of all employees and guests upon arrival; retraining of all employees on new international health and safety guidelines; staff must wear face masks at all times; guests will be given branded face masks upon arrival for optional use; social distancing markers will be set up in common areas such as the lobby for check-in/check-out, and restaurants and bars will have a 50 percent maximum capacity; pool and beach chairs will be 1.5 meters apart.

Sanitation and cleaning will be enhanced to meet new industry standards and those outlined by the Mexican government. Original Group will also be reinforcing all health and sanitation certifications including, Mexico’s Distintivo H and Cristal International Standards.

The company will also be launching new marketing campaigns for each resort: Temptations “Reloaded, Recharged & Sexier Than Ever” and Desire’s “We are Back and More Seductive Than Ever.”

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Travel

Fascinating images of forgotten underground wonders

Inside hidden worlds: Fascinating images of forgotten underground wonders, from abandoned railway tunnels to a subterranean AIRBASE built to withstand nuclear blasts

  • The intriguing pictures are courtesy of adventuring photographer Mark O’Neill, from Berkshire 
  • The collection includes photos of Second World War bunkers and examples of amazing Victorian engineering
  • He said: ‘It is a humble thrill to discover a hatch and illuminate a space that has not seen light for decades’

The world can be a spectacular place up top – and just as fascinating down below, as these pictures show.

Photographer Mark O’Neill, from Berkshire, has taken a series of incredible images showing forgotten subterranean wonders beneath our feet.

His collection captures an amazing underground airbase in Croatia designed to withstand nuclear blasts, vast flood relief chambers, the UK’s highest railway tunnel, Second World War air-raid shelters and ‘beautiful’ sewers.

Mark told MailOnline Travel how his fascination with subterranean worlds began – and how he finds them: ‘The drive to find a dark, isolated environment in which to practice lighting skills progressed into an obsession with the atmosphere of the underground. 

‘A considerable amount of online, offline and field research is required to find many of these places as they’re often invisible to all but the most curious eyes. Leads often come along with a generous serving of urban legend and there is usually some degree of truth buried in the rumours. The buzz of finding new locations through my research grew to be far more satisfying than following the tourist trail, the study of cartography becoming a major part of the process. After identifying a potential site and then carving your way through the undergrowth, it is a humble thrill to discover a hatch and illuminate a space that has not seen light for decades.’

He added: ‘Nothing can beat the spirit of adventure and thrill of facing the unknown. I’m often bewildered by the might of human engineering, especially relics of the pre-industrialised world. The mind is inevitably cast to wonder how these perplexing buried edifices came to be and speculate over the cause of their abandonment.’ Scroll down to discover the mesmerising places that lie beneath, with superb descriptions of each by the photographer…

MEGATRON. ‘The reason behind the catchy title coined by urban explorers becomes obvious when one wades into this vast flood-relief chamber on the River Sheaf in Sheffield,’ said Mark. ‘Its scale is enormous. The 19th century brought rapid growth from the development of industry in Victorian Sheffield. As a result of this, the temperamental River Sheaf became a foul, polluted waterway, suitable only for the running of mills. The growing requirement for land in the industrial city centre slowly concealed this ugly stream, as a number of buildings were constructed over it. By the turn of the 20th century, most of the urban river had been consumed in a series of tunnels underneath what included the Midland railway station, a power station, a forge, and Victorian markets. The lower section just upstream of the Sheaf’s confluence with the River Don was one of the last sections to be culverted and received a large single-span brick arch, leaving an enormous cavern beneath Castlefield’

MEGATRON PART TWO. A reversed view of the ’Megatron’ flood relief chamber seen previously, this image shows the contrast of the materials used in the culvert’s construction, said Mark. He explained that the ashlar stone section in the foreground is, in fact, the remains of an old bridge on Exchange Street, which was incorporated into the arch of the culvert when the river was covered over in the early 20th century. He added: ‘Visible behind my silhouette is the glow of the culvert’s outfall, where the Sheaf converges with the River Don. The proximity to the open river allows for all kinds of fauna to make their way into the darkness of the tunnels, including various species of bats, fish, and crustaceans, so care must be taken not to step on any critters in the water’

TORPANTAU TUNNEL. Holding the title of the UK’s highest railway tunnel, the Torpantau tunnel, which sits 1,313 feet above sea level, cuts through the rock of the Taf Fechan Valley and emerges above the Talybont Reservoir on the former line between Merthyr Tydfil and Brecon, explained Mark. He added: ‘Despite the line being lifted on the eastern side of the tunnel, much of the line still operates with steam trains as the Brecon Mountain Railway between Merthyr and Torpantau station, a short distance below the tunnel’s eastern portal. The regular whistles of the steam trains become familiar sounds to anybody who has visited the area. Tucked away in the hillside, the attractively overgrown and flooded portal is easily overlooked when walking through the eye-catching landscape of the Brecon Beacons, however, its interior is no less beautiful than its surroundings. The moss and mineral deposits that its walls have become adorned with have matured to form some remarkable textures over the past century or so. The tunnel is reasonably safe to the cautious explorer and makes for an excellent adventure if you are brave enough to get your feet wet’

MORLAIS TUNNEL. ‘The local iron, coal, and steelworks of Merthyr Tydfil were connected to the rest of Wales and the UK by spectacular railways carved through the rugged landscape at the heads of the valleys,’ said Mark. ‘Many of the lines which carried heavy freight from the coalfields saw decline post-WW2 until their eventual closure, leaving a trail of grand viaducts and gaping tunnels. This line to Abergavenny was slowly wound down until it closed to passenger traffic in 1971. Three shafts were sunk into the limestone to expedite the construction of this kilometre-long tunnel, which later allowed for the distribution of fresh air along its length. The application of light on the deluge pouring through one of these shafts creates an unusual effect on a long exposure’

MONKTON FARLEIGH, WILTSHIRE. Mark said: ‘In an area famous for its stone mining industry and resultant caverns, the British government planned to utilise a series of disused mines for the storage of large volumes of RAF munitions in WW2 before their onward journeys to Germany. The chosen site at Monkton Farleigh provided a pre-tunnelled area of 80 acres which, when complete, became the largest Central Ammunition Depot in the UK. Served by six discrete entrances on the surface, the depot had a 1.25-mile tunnel constructed for the safe and inconspicuous movement of munitions from nearby railway sidings on the UK mainline. A long conveyor belt carried the ordnance up the length of the inclined tunnel towards the enormous storage districts. This view shows the underground sidings and sorting yard and the bottom of the tunnel, where the munitions would be loaded from trains onto wagons, then onto the conveyor belt on their way into storage. At its peak, the yard was able to process up to 1,000 tons of ordnance each day. This figure helps give some scale to the massive depot, which is now used for secure data storage’

THE HOLY BROOK. ‘It is believed that the monks of Reading Abbey dug, or extensively managed a side-stream branching from the River Kennet to power two mills, which earned it the divine name of the Holy Brook,’ said Mark. ‘As the town expanded from the late 18th century onwards, sections of the watercourse were covered over in favour of development. Flowing through the site of the Simonds Brewery, the clean water of the brook was hidden from view within a brick culvert that runs over half a mile under the town centre. Remnants of this era are common finds in the form of flagons and beer bottles nestled amongst the silt of the riverbed. Further development of the area in the mid-1990s brought the installation of a modern, corrugated steel lining beneath the land occupied by the Oracle shopping centre, which presents a particularly challenging obstacle to move over’

THE HOLY BROOK PART TWO. The Holy Brook river in Reading, said Mark, bears a fascinating secret that many of the town’s inhabitants are quite unaware of. He continued: ‘Ribs of stone coping span the arch (pictured), in contrast to the usual red brickwork found elsewhere in the culvert. Old maps reveal this part had been constructed in the late 18th century, sometime after the dissolution and destruction of Reading Abbey by King Henry 8th. There have been suggestions that the abbey ruins left a surplus of stone available to be repurposed elsewhere in the town and it could have been used here. The stone certainly looks to have originated from a historic building before being reused in the culvert, but the theory that it originated from the Abbey remains unproven after an archaeological survey’

GRAND SHAFT. Mark revealed the fascinating history behind this amazing image. He said: ‘The threat of invasion is something that the town of Dover has become accustomed to, being England’s closest point to mainland Europe. This was especially so during the Napoleonic wars with France, at which point a hill overlooking the coastal town was being transformed into a formidable citadel to guard the gateway to Britain. Rapid access to the seafront was required by the thousands of troops stationed in the barracks above the white cliffs, to fend off an attack. An ingenious solution devised by military engineer General Twiss proposed to sink a triple spiral staircase and central light well through 140 feet of chalk. This allowed the troops to pour out onto the beaches below when French warships were inbound. Construction began in 1806 and lasted for roughly three years due to being plagued by wet ground. Never really used in anger, the aptly named Grand Shaft fell disused with the demolition of the barracks above in the 1960s. After decades of neglect, it has been partly restored under the care of the Western Heights Preservation Society, who permit access on certain days of the year’







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Z-ROCKET DEEP SHELTER. ‘Burrowed into the white cliffs of Dover are many deep-level shelters from the early days of the Second World War when an Axis invasion of Britain was an imminent threat,’ revealed Mark. ‘This typical example served the crews of a Z-Rocket battery built-in 1940-41, which would have fired a vertical barrage of rockets at enemy aircraft as they crossed over the coast of England. Descending some 65 feet into the ground, the network of tunnels would have provided secure refuges in the event of bombardment and multiple exits would ensure that its inhabitants would not become trapped inside. The main entrances to the tunnels were demolished soon after the war and rapid coastal erosion now threatens access’

DEEP-LEVEL AIR RAID SHELTER. ‘Another of Dover’s deep-level air raid shelters,’ said Mark, ‘this tunnel was dug in 1941 for the crews of a coastal artillery battery positioned on the cliffs to the west of the town. Designated a fortress in itself, this battery consisted of three six-inch naval guns with a range of 24km (14 miles). With regular incoming fire from across the Channel, the shelters saw frequent visitors during the first years of World War Two. As with the Z-Rocket Deep Shelter and so many other shelters in the area, the tunnelling was performed by the 172nd Tunneling Company using steel girders and sheeting to line the walls. Still busy digging into WW2, this company had been made infamous by the heroic mining raids of WW1, quietly tunnelling under the German lines to destroy and disorientate their enemy from below. Since the entrances to the shelter were bulldozed, only the emergency escape route remains accessible. The small, backfilled and partially collapsed tunnel is located on a sheer and deadly cliff face, overlooking the sea’

LONDON RESERVOIR. ‘This enormous, circular reservoir was designed by Sir William Thomas Denison in the mid-1800s, costing a total of £3,069,’ said Mark. ‘Its purpose was to serve the local area and hospital with clean water, with a volume great enough to cover the requirements of the London Fire Brigade. Located within a green park of East London, the immaculate structure appears to have been disused for many years. Consisting of several concentric arched rings, supported by brick pillars, this incredible space produces acoustics that reverberates any sound. Even the rustle of your jacket can echo for some time, so it is pointless trying to have a conversation down here. The entrance to the reservoir has since been filled with concrete, rendering it quite inaccessible’

LONDON RESERVOIR PART TWO. ‘Again in the Victorian reservoir beneath London,’ said Mark, ‘the passing of light over the brick columns reveals another view, showing the circular structure of the reservoir to be quite different from that of other reservoirs of the era. The circumference of the space measures around 220 metres, with a capacity of 1,125,000 gallons of water, dwarfing even the largest of swimming pools. It has been difficult to determine how long the reservoir has been dormant for, but with the 1871 closure of the nearby hospital it was built to supply, it is possible that no water has passed through its valves ever since. To consider that the structure is over 150 years old is quite amazing when it is still so immaculately preserved’

ALDERSHOT RESERVOIR. ‘This covered reservoir was one of several constructed in 1914-1915 to supply the nearby town and barracks at Aldershot with drinking water during the First World War,’ said Mark. ‘Four large cisterns with a huge capacity were built at this site and operated until they were replaced with a modern reservoir in the 1980s. Since that time, they have been obscured from view by a mass of brambles. Breaching the hatch into the space revealed a damp world of stalactites and a vaulted ceiling with steel supports. The circular structure also brings seemingly perpetual echoes that can become almost nauseating after some time’

LONDON SEWERS. ‘Until the 1850s, London’s sewerage system consisted of the unregulated dumping of effluent into the River Thames or any other watercourse that would wash it away,’ said Mark. ‘An unsurprising rise in disease, including recurring cholera epidemics, added pressure on the authorities to take action against the growing number of deaths. Piles of sewage lined the river banks for decades until the “big stink” in July of 1858. An unusually hot summer brought a heatwave which lifted the aroma of the raw sewage to a level unbearable by the city’s population. The false belief that cholera originated in sewage and was spread through the atmosphere in a “miasma” led to the realisation that something had to be done to solve the problem. A proposal from an engineer named Joseph Bazalgette was accepted, which would have London equipped with interconnecting pipes, draining the sewage into East London, where it would be treated and released into the Thames, downstream of the city. The mammoth project ran from 1859-1875 and created some of the most wonderful structures of the Victorian age, such as Abbey Mills Pumping Station. Bazalgette would later be heralded as a hero for saving an immeasurable number of lives (albeit through dispersing the pathogen, not the miasma) and for pioneering a system that would later be adopted by cities across the world. This photograph shows the intersection of two streams of sewage in a combined sewer overflow; designed to collect and divert rainwater run-off to prevent the main system from being overloaded. The beautiful brickwork of the sewer here is preserved as well as the day it was laid’

GHQ SIGNALS BUNKER. ‘The London Blitz brought a requirement for the British Government to relocate the GHQ Home Forces communication facilities from Whitehall to a remote site, away from the destruction of the city,’ said Mark. ‘A quiet country house with a surrounding golf club was chosen for the site of the new signals bunker, consisting of two parallel tunnels 100m long, linked by a service tunnel between. The signals facility was later used as the Rear HQ of the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force and became a major component in the planning of the Allied invasion of France in June 1944. With the success of D-Day, staff followed-up onto the continent, leaving the bunker vacant and without purpose. The empty tunnels can now be found beneath the golf-course car park but any access routes have been sealed’

VICTORIAN RESERVOIR. ‘This compact, brick reservoir was constructed in the late 1800s to supply a small market-town with drinking water,’ said Mark. ‘Three others joined it as the town’s population and infrastructure grew. Like many others of the era, it became disused in the 1970s when a modern concrete reservoir with a larger capacity was built to replace it. Since then it seems the hatch to the chamber had seen few visitors, except for a lonely slow worm who seemed happy enough living in apparent solitude’

BATTERIE TODT. ‘As the Germans dug in on the far shores of the English Channel, Hitler’s Atlantikwall was bolstered by the construction of a gargantuan Naval gun battery on France’s north coast in 1942,’ said Mark. ‘Batterie Todt consisted of four 380-millimetre guns protected by concrete casemates with walls a whopping 3.5 meters thick. The guns each had a range of 55km (34 miles), making them quite capable of throwing their shells over the Channel, of planting them in the Garden of England. Three of the huge bunkers have been abandoned since the war and one is now being used as a museum with some interesting exhibits from the period. Beneath the gun emplacements are extensive underground magazines with doorways shaped to fit the enormous 15-inch shells, which traversed the ceiling on rails as they headed towards the breech. A human silhouette gives some sense of the scale of these fearsome projectiles, which rained upon Kent until the battery’s capture in September 1944’

DISUSED RAILWAY TUNNEL. ‘One of the few disused rail tunnels in my area,’ said Mark, ‘this 520-metre (1,706ft) tunnel served a small branch line linking two towns. Its traffic gradually declined between the wars until much of the track was lifted in the 1960s, after one hundred years of use. Now used as a sanctuary for rare bats and off-limits to most visitors, the winding blue-brick tunnel is preserved with the possibility that the line may reopen in the future’

TRILL MILLSTREAM. ‘This view was unexpected when visiting a historic culvert beneath the centre of Oxford,’ said Mark. ‘Rather than be faced with age-old brickwork, the builders of a new shopping centre were still laying replacement sections of this box culvert just around the corner as I captured this photograph. The original medieval sewer is famed for being navigated by T.S. Eliot, who took a canoe along the course of the millstream by the light of candles and acetylene lamps whilst studying at Oxford University in 1908. A local urban legend claims that just over a decade later, a Victorian punt was discovered containing the skeletons of three other adventurers who had not shared the same success, falling victim to the toxic fumes of the medieval sewer’

MAGINOT LINE. ‘During the interbellum, amidst the aftermath of the First World War,’ said Mark, ‘French Minister of War André Maginot advocated the construction of a network of fortifications to run parallel to the German border. This colossal feat of engineering was an attempt to prevent the grim horrors of trench warfare, should the Germans ever invade again. Ranging from small gun positions to giant fortresses called “Ouvrages”, the defences of the Maginot line were often interconnected by a network of deep tunnels that could supply troops and ammunition via narrow-gauge railways. Although some parts of the line were involved in a fierce battle during the German invasion in 1940, the German forces effectively bypassed the defences by invading France through Belgium, taking the country in only six weeks. This photograph shows the munitions entrance of a large Ouvrage in the Alsace-Lorraine region, with the railways leading into a vertical lift shaft, taking them 30 metres below the surface to the deep-level of the fortress. Machine gun emplacements like those on the far wall are commonplace at nodal points throughout the fortress’

MAGINOT LINE MORTAR BUNKER. ‘This view shows the internal workings of a twin 135mm mortar bunker on the Maginot Line in France,’ said Mark. ‘The weapon, built in a retractable turret with adjacent observation posts and machine-gun cupolas, was virtually immune to enemy fire when not in use, but devastating when deployed. The engineering of the Maginot Line has a certain Art-Deco appearance to it and due to its well-considered, mechanical design, many of these positions are easily restored to working order. As the bunker was impenetrable from the surface, access to this gun block is via the main entrance and through several kilometres of tunnels. This subterranean network would supply the position with rations, munitions, and personnel, from 30m below the ground. Few seem to venture this deep into the fortress. This is evident by the amount of life and spent ammunition that can be seen on the floor’

ZELJAVA AIR BASE. ‘Code named Objekat 505, the Yugoslav Air Force base at Željava was a $6billion facility bored into the base of Plješevica mountain,’ said Mark, ‘straddling the border between Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Designed to withstand a 20 kiloton nuclear blast, the facility provided shelter and maintenance areas for two fighter squadrons and a reconnaissance squadron using variants of the MiG-21. Aircraft could exit the underground hangars and taxi directly onto the runway through a 100-ton sliding blast door and portal with a slot to accommodate the tail fin. The surrounding facility was sufficiently sophisticated to be able to sustain its staff, aircraft, and operations for up to 30 days without resupply. The underground section of the airbase was largely destroyed during the Yugoslav wars when the retreating Military of Serbian Krajina detonated 56 tons of explosives in an attempt to prevent its use by opposition forces’

ZELJAVA AIR BASE PART TWO. ‘Standing at one of the sliding blast doors at the entrance to the Željava Air Base in Croatia, the force of the blast that destroyed the facility is quite plain to see,’ said Mark. ‘The 56 tons of explosives laid by the retreating army of Serbian Krajina parted the two-inch steel rebar like lace, tore the 100-ton door in two and sent half of it into the opposite wall of the tunnel, some 20 metres away. Locals have said that the ground shook violently for miles around and black smoke poured from the mouths of the tunnels for six months after the event. The hazards in this location pose a threat to visitors like no other in this article. Landmines litter the grasslands of the airfield and woods of the mountain above. Toxic chemicals line the collapsing walls underground and munitions lie scattered across the floor. Bears are frequent visitors here, often hanging around over winter to hibernate in the steady climate of the tunnels. Furthermore, the destruction of a large number of smoke detectors has dispersed traces of the radioactive element americium throughout. The dangers present are not to be underestimated and it’s quite likely the Croatian Police will be there when you arrive, to remind you of that’

UPPER BOURNE CULVERT. ‘Flowing beneath the hamlet of Wadesmill in Hertfordshire is a small stream known as the Upper Bourne Stream,’ said Mark. ‘The brick culvert here was constructed sometime before the 1880s. Its course suggests it was originally built over by a farm, more recently by a housing estate. The covered section of the stream flows for just a couple of hundred meters in a round brick pipe, then through varying, modern precast concrete sections before its outfall into the River Rib. Although this stream may appear to be little more than a trickle, the water level can rise significantly with no notice. This can make the conditions treacherous and quite unpleasant to experience if you are inside at the time. Even a small increase in flow can drastically reduce the grip of your boots on the slippery brickwork, so a fall would be difficult to get back up from’

RADAR BUNKER. ‘This cute bunker from the Second World War would have provided accommodation for the crews of an early type of radar system on the south coast of England,’ said Mark. ‘The position is located just a stone’s throw from where the Chain-Home early-warning system was pioneered, at RAF Langston Matravers in Dorset. Aerials positioned on the top of the hill would detect incoming aircraft then transmit information to crews in protected bunkers nearby. One of these structures has been repurposed to house mobile antenna switchgear, whilst this bunker now shelters the sheep and cows of the nearby farm’

RIVER LODDINGTON CULVERT. ‘For a railway crossing such a small stream, this seems like an unnecessarily large culvert,’ said Mark, ‘such is the splendour of Victorian engineering. Flowing beneath an elegant arched viaduct on the GNR and LNWR railway line between Nottingham and Northampton, it appears the local topology around Loddington required the Eye Brook to be submerged beneath the land in a brick and stone culvert. Crossing the line at an oblique angle, the culvert continues for around a quarter of a mile below the grassy fields of Leicestershire. Never a busy line, to begin with, the tracks above were lifted after the line closed to traffic in 1964 then the attractive viaduct was demolished in 2001. Forgotten beneath the ground, the well-built brick and stone arch still carries the Eye Brook through the quaint valley where more than one hundred years’ worth of mineral deposits can be seen spewing through inlets in the tunnel walls’

  • Visit Mark’s Instagram page to see more of his amazing work. 

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Travel

As Priti Patel prepares to announce quarantine, Jet2 has cancelled all its June holidays

As Priti Patel prepares to announce mandatory 14 days of quarantine for arrivals to the UK and returning holidaymakers, the giant travel firm Jet2 has cancelled all its June holidays.

The Leeds-based airline and tour operator had planned to re-start services from 17 June, exactly three months after the Foreign Office imposed a warning against all-but-essential travel abroad.

The mid-June date matched closely plans in Europe for opening up after lockdown, and easyJet’s intended restart of services.

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But a spokesperson for Jet2 said: “In view of the ongoing travel restrictions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, we have taken the decision to recommence our flights and holidays programme on 1 July.”

Disappointed holidaymakers are entitled to a full refund, but may choose to postpone their trips.

The spokesperson said: “Customers who were due to travel before 1 July do not need to contact us. We are continuing to proactively contact customers to discuss their options, one of which is rebooking their holiday to a later date.

“If a customer has a booking that is due to depart on or after 1 July, the booking is subject to our normal terms and conditions.”

Jet2’s rival, Tui, has not yet announced its response to the Home Office’s quarantine policy. Tui is Britain’s biggest holiday company and was due to resume trips on 12 June. It is offering customers the chance to postpone any holiday booked in June, July and August.

The government says: “Now that domestic transmission within the UK is coming under control, and other countries begin to lift lockdown measures, it is the right time to prepare new measures at the border.”

But the move has united almost the entire UK travel industry in condemnation of a policy that many say is “too much, too late” – and will finish off businesses that are already reeling.

Kane Pirie, the managing director of Vivid Travel, said: “Fourteen-day quarantining for UK arrivals will throw petrol on to the blaze of businesses, brands and trust.

“The government has not missed a trick so far in how to make this multi-billion-pound crisis worse.”

The travel writer and former tour operator Neil Taylor said: “I wonder if the Civil Aviation Authority have drawn up a list of tour operators likely to say this is the final straw and they will pack in now?

“The same could apply to incoming operators and attractions, desperately waiting for some solace during what is normally the peak season.”

Abta, the travel association, said quarantine “will have a damaging impact on the UK inbound and outbound tourism industry”.

The Labour MP and former Cabinet minister, Ben Bradshaw, tweeted: “The most useless home secretary in history is about to announce a quarantine with no basis in science, not backed by WHO [World Health Organisation], just as the rest of Europe opens up, dealing a hammer blow to an economy already on its knees & depriving Brits uniquely of their foreign hols this year.”

Also on Twitter, Darren Wheeler wrote: “Nobody will come to the UK. Nobody can go anywhere because of it.

“At a single stroke the government have destroyed Europe’s biggest aviation industry and cost thousands of jobs, not to mention billions pumped into the economy.

“@pritipatel @BorisJohnson @grantshapps – Happy now?”

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Travel

Pound to euro exchange rate: GBP ‘trades in tight range’ as focus remains on coronavirus

The pound to euro exchange rate showed little movement yesterday. GBP “traded within a tight range” against the common currency. New PMI data failed to spark a shift but attention remains on the tensions between China and the USA.

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  • Ryanair customers told they’ll be ‘blacklisted’ for chargeback refund

Investors also continue to focus on the coronavirus pandemic.

There are currently over five million cases of the virus worldwide.

The UK has over 252,000 cases, trailing behind the US, Russia and Brazil – the only countries with more cases.

The pound is currently trading at 1.1171 against the euro, according to Bloomberg at the time of writing.

Michael Brown, currency expert at international payments and foreign exchange firm Caxton FX, spoke to Express.co.uk regarding the latest exchange rate figures this morning.

“Sterling traded within a tight range against the euro on Thursday,” said Brown.

“Markets shrugged off the latest round of PMI surveys pointing to a further economic contraction.

“They also continued to pay close attention to ever-increasing Sino-US tensions.”

Brown continued: “Today, those tensions, and the coronavirus itself, will remain the primary focuses of attention.

“However risk appetite is likely to remain depressed, pressuring the pound, ahead of the long weekend on both sides of the Atlantic.”

A number of counties across the planet are starting to relax their lockdown restrictions.

Some have even set dates for when they anticipate tourists will be able to return.

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  • Holidays: Is booking a holiday last minute cheaper or not?

However, British travellers cannot get excited about buying their holiday money quite yet.

Despite the easing lockdown rules in the UK, Britons are still unable to travel aboard.

Foreign travel is only permitted for “essential” reasons.

It is not yet known when this restriction will be lifted.

Many travel money services are on pause for now during the lockdown measures.

Britons are also advised not to swap their leftover currency back to pounds at this time.

 Ian Stafford-Taylor, CEO of currency exchange service Equals, advised: “If they can, holidaymakers might want to keep hold of their currency until their next trip and use it then.”

“For those using prepaid currency cards, they can spend their money back in the UK online or in stores, keep it for their next trip, or change it to a different currency altogether.”

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Travel

The world's most breathtaking ports

The world’s most breathtaking ports: The ultimate list of places with wonderful waterfronts, from America to Australia via Italy and Norway

  • This series of scintillating snaps will take you on a maritime journey around the globe  
  • Some of the ports are framed by soaring skyscrapers, others by rolling snow-covered mountains
  • Dubrovnik, Portloe in Cornwall, Marina Corricella in Italy, Monte Carlo, Stockholm and Rio all feature

Water wonderful world of waterfronts.

There’s something undeniably romantic and enchanting about a beautiful harbour, as these spell-binding images show.

This series of scintillating snaps will take you on a maritime journey around the globe, from where seaplanes land in Vancouver to breathtaking harbours in Italy, Sweden and Norway.

Of course, South America and Australia feature too. 

As does an extremely cute cove in Cornwall. 

Scroll down – you’ll almost be able to smell the sea air…

The Old Town harbour in Dubrovnik, Croatia, is part of a 15th-century fortification and once served as a hub for the city’s trading fleet. Today, there is a larger port elsewhere in the city, but cruise ships still pass the old port on the way in. The most striking feature of the harbour is the fort of St John, built in 1346 to protect the city against pirates and other enemy ships

Sea-ing is believing: The fairy-tale harbour at Portloe – one of Cornwall’s prettiest villages

The impossibly romantic rainbow-esque port of Marina Corricella on the island of Procida in the Gulf of Naples

Behold the 203ft-tall Rock of Monaco, which sits between Port de Fontvieille (pictured) and Port Hercule in Monte Carlo 

The jaw-dropping coastline around Rio de Janeiro, with Sugarloaf Mountain guarding the mouth of Guanabara Bay and the 124ft Art Deco Christ the Redeemer statue gazing out from the top of Corcovado mountain 

Sailing into Venice – which, in its entirety, is a Unesco heritage site – is one of the most memorable maritime experiences it’s possible to have

Bergen is framed by seven hills and harbours not only a beautiful harbour, but cute clapperboard houses and top-drawer museums, too

Geneva harbour and Lake Geneva are a sight to behold. The fountain pictured, Jet d’Eau, shoots water up to a height of 140 metres (460ft)

Labuan Bajo, a fishing town on the west coast of Flores island in the Nusa Tenggara region of east Indonesia, has a most enchanting harbour and is a launch point for trips to nearby Komodo Island and Rinca Island, where Komodo dragons dwell









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English Harbour and Nelson’s Dockyard beyond on the paradise island of Antigua and Barbuda

Yes we Canada: Vancouver Harbour is an all-time great – we recommend arriving by seaplane

The 305ft-tall (if you include the pedestal) Statue of Liberty looks out towards the immense New York skyline. This is truly harbour royalty

A breathtaking aerial view of the port town of Svolvaer in Norway’s Lofoten archipelago

No, it’s not CGI, this is a photograph of a real place – Kotor on Montenegro’s Adriatic coast

No picture-list of great harbours would be complete without this scene. One of the best ways of taking in the stunning Sydney waterfront area is to hop on a ferry that goes past the Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge 

A mesmerising panoramic aerial view of Aberdeen Harbour and Ap Lei Chau Bridge in Hong Kong

The Marina di Porto Rotondo on the Italian island of Sardinia is, by all accounts, bellissimo 

The Grand Harbour, aka the Port of Valletta, in Malta. Visitmalta.com rightly proclaims it to be one of the most spectacular ports in the world. It’s been ‘a hive of activity for 2,000 years’, it adds

The harbour in Nice – actual name Port Lympia – is a great spot for superyacht spotting and for gazing at beautiful 18th-century buildings

A spellbinding view across Stockholm’s beautiful Old Town and waterfront area

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Cruises

Virgin Voyages Extends Suspension of Sailings to October

As a result of the ongoing coronavirus outbreak worldwide, Virgin Voyages announced it has once again been forced to push back its inaugural season, this time until at least October 16.

According to Cruise Critic, Virgin Voyages revealed that passengers who booked travel on impacted Scarlet Lady sailings would be eligible for a 100 percent refund. To make up for the inconvenience, customers who cancel will also receive a 25 percent future cruise credit.

Travelers who don’t cancel their Virgin Voyages bookings will receive a 200 percent future cruise credit, and those who use the credit to book a new voyage by June 30 will receive up to $500 onboard credit.

In addition, officials from the cruise line said final payments will now be due 60 days before sailing instead of the traditional 120 days for all sailings scheduled to depart through December 16.

Virgin Voyages also updated its cancellation policy to allow impacted travelers to rescind the booking up to 48 hours before departure and receive a 100 percent future cruise credit.

The cruise line’s Scarlet Lady ship was scheduled to be christened in March, but the viral pandemic halted all planned events for the vessel. Officials said the ship’s maiden voyage and naming ceremony have been pushed back to early 2021.

On Wednesday, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings extended its suspension of voyages from July 1 to July 31 for its three brands, which include Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises.

On the other hand, small-ship cruise operator Windstar Cruises revealed plans to resume operations in September with the Wind Spirit in Tahiti, before gradually returning other ships to service through July 2021.

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Travel

Britons not welcome in Greece until coronavirus infection rate declines, says tourism minister

After Greece announced a gradual opening up to international visitors, the country’s tourism minister has confirmed that British travellers will not initially be welcome because of the high incidence of coronavirus cases in the UK.

On Wednesday, the Greek premier, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, said the domestic tourism season will begin on 15 June, with the first international holiday flights touching down 16 days later.

Ahead of the anticipated lifting, easyJet has today started selling flights from Gatwick to Athens from 1 July onwards.

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But on Thursday afternoon, Athens time, the tourism minister re-tweeted an ITV report which indicated British visitors will not immediately be welcome.

In the report, Harry Theoharis said Greece will want to see UK infection rates decline before British visitors will be accepted.

“I think that the UK has a big difference in terms of the current medical status of the country with Greece, so I don’t think it’s likely it will be there,” he told ITV.

On the BBC’s Coronavirus Newscast on Monday, Mr Theoharis urged the UK to agree to mutual “quarantine immunity”.

He said: “If we don’t impose quarantine for people coming to Greece from the UK from some day onwards, we would welcome if the UK extended the same thing.”

The Independent has approached Mr Theoharis for comment.

Around three million British visitors – the vast majority of them tourists – travel to Greece in a normal year. The UK and Germany are the country’s two leading tourism markets.

At present the Foreign Office urges against all but essential travel abroad.

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