TOURISTS started having an extra hour to explore York Minster from this morning.

The mediaeval cathedral is having to deal with a major financial shortfall as a result of the lockdown and its months-long closure to tourists.

Since it reopened for sightseeing on July 11, its prebooked tickets have been selling out.

But opening hours have been restricted compared to pre-lockdown hours and visitor capacity is down 80 per cent from last summer to allow for social distancing.

From today opening times have been extended on Saturdays and Fridays by one hour.

Minister staff believe the change will lead to a 20 per cent increase in visitors.

The extension co-incides with the rule that face masks must be worn inside places of worship from today.

The Minster's director of visitor experience Patricia Dunlop said: "Visitors have come from all over the UK, indicating a strong ‘staycation’ market and some international tourists have also visited contributing to a strong demand for the pre-booked timeslots, most of which have sold out in advance.

"Opening one hour earlier on Fridays and Saturdays will allow 100 people more to visit safely on each day.”

The Press revealed earlier this week that there could be 20 redundancies at the 850-year cathedral and in June the Minster School was closed to help the cathedral meet a £5.2 million financial shortfall.

Before the extended opening times came into effect today, visitor capacity was a maximum of 500 people per day or 20 per cent of pre-lockdown capacity.

All visits must be prebooked and visitors must follow a one-way system. Other anti-coronavirus measures are in place including handwashing stations.

No-one aged over 11 will be allowed into the cathedral unless they are wearing a face covering or visor, unless they can convince staff they cannot wear a face covering because of a health condition..

The public have been able to attend services at the Minster since July 4 but until today were able to do so without wearing masks.