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Two friends who stumbled on a neglected paradise – a true English Eden

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two friends who stumbled on a neglected paradise a true english eden

The sun had yet to rise as I parked my car beside a disused farm gate which was held shut by twine and bore a sign declaring ‘no public right of way’.

From the darkness of a nearby hedgerow, I heard the mournful sigh of a bullfinch. Next came the chatter of a redstart, a ‘cuck-oo’ and the drumming of a lesser spotted woodpecker, all species in critical decline except, it seemed, in this traditional Herefordshire orchard.

I had heard nothing like this dawn chorus before. It was as if every vanishing birdsong in England was being broadcast at once, like stepping back a century to a scene that Victorian naturalists such as Darwin would have recognised.

A rural orchard in Herefordshire offers a glimpse into Britain's countryside from years gone by

A rural orchard in Herefordshire offers a glimpse into Britain's countryside from years gone by

A rural orchard in Herefordshire offers a glimpse into Britain’s countryside from years gone by

It was still only 6.30am. I opened my old Thermos, perched on a gatepost and watched an amber sun burn the ridgeline of the Malverns, giving me my first glimpse of the Eden where I would soon be spending so much of my time.

Tithe records show that an orchard has been on this site since at least 1840, and among its 700 standing fruit trees are many varieties of apple and pear now lost entirely to the countryside at large but here cherished and protected by the owner, Nancy, and her son David.

From a long line of fruit farmers and cider-makers, they are also perhaps the best wildlife farmers I have ever met.

Since the late 1960s, commercial orchards have prioritised the planting of apple varieties that yield more fruit annually but die after 15 years or so. 

They never attain the crevices or decay needed to make them of use to the insects and birds that thrive in this orchard.

The orchard is home to some of the rarest trees in the English countryside, including a Flakey-Bark, which bears apples that seem irresistible to badgers. File photo

The orchard is home to some of the rarest trees in the English countryside, including a Flakey-Bark, which bears apples that seem irresistible to badgers. File photo

The orchard is home to some of the rarest trees in the English countryside, including a Flakey-Bark, which bears apples that seem irresistible to badgers. File photo

Many of its trees, planted well before the 1940s, are bent into strange shapes. 

Yet the orchard still produces 100 tons of fruit each season and protects an ark of animals now almost impossible to find living side-by-side elsewhere in our dying countryside.

I couldn’t wait to share this unique corner of our island with my friend Nick Gates, a fellow wildlife film-maker I met when we worked together on the BBC series Springwatch.

‘You have to see this place,’ I told him — and most weekends for the past five years we have driven up there from our homes in Bristol, a round trip of some 60 miles, to document a world our grandchildren may never see.

Walking through the orchard in autumn, the ground carpeted with windfalls of every shape and flavour, it seems staggering to us that 80 per cent of the apples we eat in Britain are imported.

We were once world leaders in the craft and production of such fruits. Any orchard grower will explain that the gradual weathering of sun and rain gives our home-grown apples the best taste in the world. Yet in a country where new restaurants and food fashions take off every week, few people seem to be aware of this, or to care.

Boasting trees that date back to the 1940s, the rural orchard is home to wildlife, including great tits, that are almost impossible to see alongside each other in Britain's dying countryside

Boasting trees that date back to the 1940s, the rural orchard is home to wildlife, including great tits, that are almost impossible to see alongside each other in Britain's dying countryside

Boasting trees that date back to the 1940s, the rural orchard is home to wildlife, including great tits, that are almost impossible to see alongside each other in Britain’s dying countryside

This madness has been fuelled by supermarkets with no interest in the rich heritage, taste and brilliance of the English apple. Instead, they demand wholly green apples, or those with a certain percentage of red.

The demise of orchards has also been hastened by the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy, which has paid many farmers to clear them in favour of fast-profit crops.

These combined forces favour waxed imports that kill our climate, our wildlife and rural jobs.

Globally, the damage wrought by our reliance on overseas apples is enormous. A single flight from New Zealand, one of our major suppliers, will pump more than three tons of carbon into our planet’s choking lungs. Meanwhile, more and more traditional orchards, their trees reducing carbon levels for free, perish every year.

Boasting an unrivalled dawn chorus, the orchard is home to an array of birds, including woodpeckers (above) redstarts, and cuckoos

Boasting an unrivalled dawn chorus, the orchard is home to an array of birds, including woodpeckers (above) redstarts, and cuckoos

Boasting an unrivalled dawn chorus, the orchard is home to an array of birds, including woodpeckers (above) redstarts, and cuckoos

En route to Herefordshire, Nick and I drive by the empty, chemical fields and flailed hedgerows.

These farmlands are eerily silent but we know that whenever we arrive in Eden, nature will turn up the volume, especially in spring when the nectar provided by early-blossoming trees is a lifeline for bumble bees.

Finding ourselves below a goat willow one calm, bright April morning, we gawked in amazement. The noise generated by so many bumble bees had to be heard to be believed: a whole tree engulfed by the whirring hum from a thousand tiny wings.

A century ago, this would have been the norm. But the ‘bee-loud’ countryside described by Yeats is now largely an anachronism, except in traditional orchards. 

While pesticides are driving bumble bees out of the surrounding fruit farms, no chemical has touched this land since 1930.

Apple and pear flowers are pollinated almost exclusively by bumble bees and, were they to vanish from the orchard, its entire ecosystem and revenues from cider would disappear. So, too, would the exuberance of its wildlife.

Here, as many as 40 bird species have been recorded within the spacious grasp of our favourite apple tree — a 70-year-old Kingston Black. Goldfinches, mistle thrushes and redstarts are among them but surely the most cunning are the jackdaws, gloss-capped thieves in edgy grey suits.

A small flock of Soay sheep in the neighbouring fields help the jackdaws’ spring-cleaning. 

The birds will hop on the back of a ruminating ewe, gain a firm purchase on the animal’s rump fleece and carefully pull out fresh clumps of wool with which to reline their nests. 

The sheep are unfazed by this welcome thinning of their heavy winter coats.

Herefordshire may be home to modern farmland, defined by chemical fields and flailed hedgerows, but there is a little slice of the past in this orchard, which also boasts fieldfare birds

Herefordshire may be home to modern farmland, defined by chemical fields and flailed hedgerows, but there is a little slice of the past in this orchard, which also boasts fieldfare birds

Herefordshire may be home to modern farmland, defined by chemical fields and flailed hedgerows, but there is a little slice of the past in this orchard, which also boasts fieldfare birds

Jackdaws often occupy the cavities drilled by woodpeckers, as do many other creatures. 

Grey squirrels and hornets, tawny owls and hazel dormice, and even stoats and common toads line up to take advantage of the nesting and roosting sites created by the orchard’s cabinet-makers.

For some birds, such as coal tits, the natural place to raise a family is among the tangled roots at the base of the oldest fruit trees. 

One spring we saw that the entrance to one of these nests was blocked by a small, golden-brown head poking out, the limp, oversized ears and drooping whiskers emphasising that this unfortunate wood mouse was extremely dead.

Only one scenario could explain this. 

A coal tit lays, on average, nine or ten eggs and, having scared off the parents, this greedy mouse had scoffed the lot, equivalent to eating half its own weight. 

We were reminded of the fate of Winnie-the-Pooh when he got wedged in the entrance to Rabbit’s underground home, having eaten his host’s supply of honey.

After a few days’ forced fasting, he was freed. But for our wood mouse there was no happy ending.

Besides providing homes for its residents, the orchard offers them a plentiful supply of food, not least for the bullfinches — scarlet-breasted songsters that were once condemned by Henry VIII for their ‘criminal attacks’ on fruit trees. 

The oldest fruiting tree visited by the conservationists was 150 years old, but still produces Barland pears

The oldest fruiting tree visited by the conservationists was 150 years old, but still produces Barland pears

The oldest fruiting tree visited by the conservationists was 150 years old, but still produces Barland pears

Their secateur-like bills can make short work of up to 30 flower buds a minute, and an Act of Parliament passed during Henry’s reign decreed that one penny would be paid for every bullfinch trapped and killed.

As this suggests, Henry had a sweet tooth, as did his second wife Anne Boleyn. 

While she was particularly fond of cherries, he loved apples and pears and ordered his fruiterer Richard Harris to scour the Western world for its best fruit varieties and cultivate them in England. 

Those Harris brought back included the ‘pippin’. The word sounds English but, we were a little sad to discover, this apple is originally from France, its name being French for seedling.

By 1877, there were 89,000 acres of orchards across England and in the following year a book was published called the Herefordshire Pomona, an illustrated record of the 432 varieties of apple and pear that had been cultivated within that county alone.

The drawings of apples still leap from the page more than a century later. From the Sheep’s Snout to the Tom Putt, the Eggleton Styre to the Hagloe Crab, the Cider Lady’s Finger to the Bloody Turk, the rich culinary heritage of our orchards shines in reds, greens and yellows from every illustration.

The oldest fruiting tree in the orchard we visit was planted eight years before the Herefordshire Pomona was published. Now 150 years old and fissured by time, it looks deader than most dead trees — yet each year, perfect Barland pears hang from its branches.

Nearby are two of the rarest trees in the English countryside. 

A Flakey-Bark, bearing apples that seem irresistible to badgers, is a craggy giant seen in only a few locations. 

And in one corner stands the Betty Prosser pear, one of only 13 such trees known to exist in the UK.

Unlike apples, pears must be collected within two days of hitting the ground. 

Come autumn, David takes the windfalls to the orchard’s old cider mill, where a huge stone wheel crushes them and extracts every last drop of the amber fuel destined to become perry.

Once this wheel was powered by a donkey but now it is turned by an old motorbike, last used for transport in 1961 before being put into permanent harness by David’s father.

To make perry requires only a single variety of pear, with just one veteran tree providing a sufficient range of fruits to supply acidity, sweetness and drier, tannic qualities. Apples are a different matter.

Most ciders are made from a blend of apples and many trees can conspire to give David the balance he needs. 

A Frederick, for example, will yield fruity, high-quality cider but can’t be stored for too long, while the Dymock Red will inject a bitter-sharp taste.

Regarding when they should be harvested, an old Herefordshire saying is that you must ‘leave them to sweat’. 

If a bruise can be seen after gentle thumb pressure is applied, the apple can be picked from the ground — if the orchard’s non-human residents haven’t got to it first.

Conservationists say listening to the birds sing in the orchard is like stepping back to the time of Charles Darwin

Conservationists say listening to the birds sing in the orchard is like stepping back to the time of Charles Darwin

Conservationists say listening to the birds sing in the orchard is like stepping back to the time of Charles Darwin

In recent years, red admiral butterflies, which once migrated south into mainland Europe, are increasingly surviving our ever-milder winters — and as the fermenting sugars in the fallen apples are converted into alcohol by their metabolisms, they become drunk and disorderly.

On occasion, the red admirals must be picked up and walked home. 

One butterfly we helped took quite some time to recover when placed gently on a bough, and on take-off its flight was still noticeably erratic.

When November brings the first frosts, the log fire is lit in the old farmhouse and Nancy and David map out the planting of rootstocks in the months ahead.

Onto these, David will graft budding branches from his most special varieties. 

It is a process he undertakes zealously, but it can take place only in spring when the orchard’s trees begin to wake up.

When that time comes, tape is wrapped around the point where scion meets root and slowly, under pressure from the carefully administered bandage, the two will join.

Cells fuse into cells and five centuries of cultivation find new roots in the ground of our adopted orchard — that fading paradise which must live on. 

Orchard, by Benedict Macdonald and Nicholas Gates, is published by William Collins, £20.

To order a copy for £17.60, go to www.mailshop.co.uk/books or call 020 3308 9193. Free UK delivery on orders over £15. Offer price valid until 17/10/2020.

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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Parents’ fury after pupils pack into school corridor in Dundee without face masks in shocking photo

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parents fury after pupils pack into school corridor in dundee without face masks in shocking photo

Parents have slammed a school in Dundee after pupils at the Harris Academy were seen packed into a corridor after two tested positive for covid. 

The schoolchildren were reportedly stuck in the narrow corridor as a result of a prank orchestrated by a small group of pupils.

An investigation has been launched after video emerged showing scores of youngsters packed into a confined space. 

Parents have expressed their horror at the video which has been circulating on social media amid a spike in the city’s infection rate.

The corridor was reportedly blocked due to a pupil prank

The corridor was reportedly blocked due to a pupil prank

Schoolchildren are packed together in the tight space

Schoolchildren are packed together in the tight space

Pupils at Harris Academy in Dundee,  Scotland, are packed tightly together in a school corridor with many unable to social distance in the crammed space

One called the situation ‘diabolical’ and said they were concerned over their children’s safety.  

The pile up is understood to have caused by pupils blocking the corridor which leads to a dining area.

The clip also shows an adult – likely to be a member of staff – pushing through the crowd in the opposite direction. 

One angry parent said: ‘We are trusting that the school is as safe as it can be and with cases increasing day by day this video worries me.’

Another said: ‘For a school that’s had two confirmed cases this week this should definitely not be happening.

‘There should be staggered exits and teachers making sure the corridors are cleared.

‘Any pupils causing this should be dealt with appropriately.’ 

Describing the scene as ‘diabolical’, another said: ‘I’m surprised the whole school hasn’t got Covid.’

It comes after two pupils at the school tested positive for Covid-19.  

Some parents said their children had reported frequent crowding, but others said the incident was isolated and praised the school’s efforts to enforce safety measures.

Scottish Government guidance does not require physical distancing between young people in secondary schools but states it should be promoted where possible.

In line with other schools, Harris Academy has introduced one-way corridors and signs directing pupils and staff where to walk, alongside enhanced cleaning and hand sanitising.

Despite opening only four years ago the £31 million school building is already at capacity with over 1,300 pupils.

The footage was filmed at Harris Academy in Dundee, where two pupils have reportedly tested positive for coronavirus

The footage was filmed at Harris Academy in Dundee, where two pupils have reportedly tested positive for coronavirus

The footage was filmed at Harris Academy in Dundee, where two pupils have reportedly tested positive for coronavirus

Harris Academy Parent Council chairman Graham McKay said: ‘Whilst I agree that the video raises questions and possible concerns, I continue to believe the school and its management are doing as much as they can to keep our young people safe in a challenging environment and following the guidance provided at a Scottish Government and local authority level.’

In a statement issued after the video’s publication, he said he had spoken to head teacher Barry Millar.

He said: ‘He has assured me that this incident was as a result of a small number of individuals preventing pupils moving through the corridor.

‘As such this will be dealt with by the school under their normal procedures.’

He also said that in line with Scottish Government guidance, schools could do no more than request that pupils wear face coverings, and he highlighted other infection control measures in place, including separate break times for junior and senior pupils and staggered lunchtimes.

A Dundee City Council spokesman said: ‘The school has fully investigated the events which happened in the corridor last week and appropriate action has been taken.

‘Refreshed guidance is being given to staff and pupils about safety when moving around the school, as well reminding young people about the need to wear face coverings.

‘The head teacher is also sending a communication to families about these issues.’ 

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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Is West Yorkshire next for Tier Three? Council bosses warn tougher restrictions are needed

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is west yorkshire next for tier three council bosses warn tougher restrictions are needed

West Yorkshire may become the next part of England to move into the strictest Tier Three lockdown, with council leaders demanding tougher action to curb spiralling coronavirus cases and hospital admissions.

Local officials held crunch talks with senior ministers yesterday to discuss the ‘next steps’ in tackling Covid-19 in West Yorkshire, with further behind-closed-doors meetings scheduled in the ‘coming days’.

The region, home to around 1.8million people living in the boroughs of Leeds, Kirklees, Calderdale, Bradford and Wakefield, is already under Tier Two — which means they are banned from meeting up with friends and family indoors.

But if Number 10 plunges the area into the toughest bracket, it will mean all pubs and bars have to close unless they serve meals. Residents will also be banned from mixing with anyone they don’t live with indoors or in private gardens and beer gardens.

Warrington in Cheshire became the latest place to enter Tier Three, with the rules coming into force this morning. Nottingham City, Gedling, Broxtowe and Rushcliffe will all join the toughest tier from Thursday, meaning 8million people will be living under the tightest curbs by the weekend.

Department of Health statistics show cases are rising across all five areas of West Yorkshire — with almost 9,000 new infections in the week ending October 21. But the Covid-19 outbreak in Leeds appears to have stabilised after soaring at the end of September, according to government statistics.

Despite cases continuing to rise, one local MP insisted that the area should remain in Tier Two. Barry Sheerman, Labour’s representative for Huddersfield, believes cases will ‘stabilise a bit’. And councillors and MPs in Kirklees have also said the outbreak appears to be ‘levelling off’.

It comes as northern Tory MPs have demanded a clear exit strategy out of Tier Three lockdowns. Business Minister Nadhim Zahawi today said Tier Three areas were subject to 28-day reviews and bringing the virus under control was the route out of restrictions. Clear thresholds for each of the alert levels in England have never been laid out by the Government.  

West Yorkshire may be next to move into Tier Three affecting 1.3million people. If it were to be plunged into Tier Three, it would follow neighbours South Yorkshire, Lancashire and Greater Manchester

West Yorkshire may be next to move into Tier Three affecting 1.3million people. If it were to be plunged into Tier Three, it would follow neighbours South Yorkshire, Lancashire and Greater Manchester

West Yorkshire may be next to move into Tier Three affecting 1.3million people. If it were to be plunged into Tier Three, it would follow neighbours South Yorkshire, Lancashire and Greater Manchester

Almost 3,400 cases of Covid-19 were diagnosed in Leeds in the week to October 22, giving the city an infection rate of 415.1 per 100,000 population

Almost 3,400 cases of Covid-19 were diagnosed in Leeds in the week to October 22, giving the city an infection rate of 415.1 per 100,000 population

Almost 3,400 cases of Covid-19 were diagnosed in Leeds in the week to October 22, giving the city an infection rate of 415.1 per 100,000 population

Bradford has the highest infection rate of all five local authorities in West Yorkshire, with 470 cases per 100,000. Some 2,537 were diagnosed in one week

Bradford has the highest infection rate of all five local authorities in West Yorkshire, with 470 cases per 100,000. Some 2,537 were diagnosed in one week

Bradford has the highest infection rate of all five local authorities in West Yorkshire, with 470 cases per 100,000. Some 2,537 were diagnosed in one week

Calderdale has an infection rate of 418.1 cases per 100,000 people

Calderdale has an infection rate of 418.1 cases per 100,000 people

Calderdale has an infection rate of 418.1 cases per 100,000 people

Wakefield's infection rate is 404.2

Wakefield's infection rate is 404.2

Wakefield’s infection rate is 404.2 

Kirklees' infection rate is 384

Kirklees' infection rate is 384

Kirklees’ infection rate is 384

The leaders of the councils across West Yorkshire said the latest data on infections and hospital admissions ‘shows a continued rise’. 

An average of 418.28 new cases per 100,000 population were diagnosed across the five authorities in West Yorkshire in the week to October 22, PA news agency analysis shows. This is up from 307.14 the week prior, in the seven days to October 15. 

Council bosses say they have made ‘repeated’ calls to the Government to take further local action, including strengthening community engagement and test and trace.

HOW MANY CASES ARE THERE IN WEST YORKSHIRE? 

Infection rate is shown as new cases in the week to October 22 per 100,000 people. The following number in brackets is cases diagnosed.  

Bradford: 470.0 (2,537)

Calderdale: 418.1 (884)

Leeds: 415.1 (3,292)

Wakefield: 404.2 (1,408)

Kirklees: 384 (1,689)

Average: 418.28

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In a statement they said: ‘Today we were invited to a meeting with senior government ministers and the Deputy Chief Medical Officer to discuss the next steps in combating Covid-19 in West Yorkshire.

‘The latest data on infections and hospital admissions shows a continued rise, and we have repeated our calls to Government that further local action needs to be taken, including strengthening community engagement and test and trace. 

‘There will be further discussions with government in the coming days.

‘We are absolutely committed to implementing the most effective measures to protect the people and economy of West Yorkshire.’

But council leaders face resistance from local MPs who say outbreaks are not spiralling out of control, including Barry Sheerman, MP for Huddersfield, in Kirklees. 

Mr Sheerman said Kirklees should remain in Tier Two because there appears to be a ‘levelling off’ of cases, suggesting the restrictions implemented two weeks ago are working. 

He told Yorkshire Live: ‘I think we should remain in Tier Two – let’s see the data.

‘My main job as a member of parliament is the welfare of my constituents and if I saw a really big surge in admissions of hospitals and deaths, of course I would go for the strictest tier.

‘At the moment, I get a feel that we may see a levelling off locally and if so we would quite rightly stay in the same tier.’

Public Health England figures suggest that over the weekend, cases in Kirklees fell with fewer people receiving a positive Covid-19 test result. But the data is too early to be able to draw conclusions.

Overall the borough has been on a continuing upward trajectory since the end of August, with minimal evidence of cases slowing down.

Mr Sheerman added: ‘The only thing I am hopeful of is that we all saw Leeds and Huddersfield and all the university towns surge when the population really mixes up when people travel all around the country, schools went back followed by students, and people are still coming from abroad.

‘My note of optimism is that I think that is working its way through now, and we might stabilise a bit – that is my gut feeling.’   

Political leaders in Kirklees are desperate for the borough to remain in Tier Two, pleading with Boris Johnson last week to ‘make the right call’ over potential changes to restrictions that will effect some 439,000 people.

Kirklees Council’s Outbreak Control Board, compromised of Council Leader Shabir Pandor along with a group of MPs including Barry Sheerman and Jason McCartney, said it was cautiously optimistic of a drop in infection rates locally.

In their joint statement, released on Wednesday evening (Oct 21) they said: ‘Infection rates in Kirklees have been rising sharply over the last few weeks. But the latest data show signs that the increase might be levelling off. We all need to seize this opportunity to bring rates down to preserve our freedoms, protect the NHS and save lives.

‘With time and government support on improving contact tracing and our work with communities, we are confident that we can flatten the curve again.

‘Unlike other local authorities, which are now in Tier Three, Kirklees hasn’t seen exponential increases in infections. During the summer, our infection rates were in the top four local authorities in England. We are now in the top forty.’

The group said Tier Two restrictions were ‘the best route’ for Kirklees because they would save lives from Covid-19 while also keeping livelihoods afloat. 

‘We believe the current restrictions reflect our local circumstances and offer the best chance of achieving the public consent that is essential in making any restrictions work,’ the statement said.

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WHAT ARE THE RULES IN DIFFERENT TIERS OF LOCKDOWN?

TIER ONE 

Tier one restrictions mirror those already in place across England.

These include the rule of six, a 10pm curfew, group sport to be played outdoors only and a maximum of 15 guests at wedding ceremonies.  

TIER TWO 

Tier two restrictions mean people are prohibited from socialising with anybody outside their household or support bubble in any indoor setting

Two households may be allowed to meet in a private garden and public outdoor spaces, as long as the rule of six and social distancing are followed.

Tradespeople – such as plumbers and electricians – can continue to go into a household for work. 

TIER THREE 

Restaurants can open, but only until 10pm. 

Pubs and bars will be ordered to close unless they also operate as a restaurant.

This definition extends to pubs which sell ‘substantial’ meals, which like restaurants will be allowed to stay open but only serve alcohol to people eating a meal.

Locals are advised only to leave their areas for essential travel such as work, education or health, and must return before the end of the day.

Overnight stays by those from outside of these ‘high risk’ areas are also be banned. Households are not be allowed to mix either indoors or outdoors.     

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Bradford, home to around 350,000 people, appears to have the most cases in West Yorkshire. Some 2,537 cases were diagnosed in the week to October 22, meaning it has the most cases by population size in the county, with 470 per 100,000 people, up from 364.2 last week.

This is higher than some parts of South Yorkshire when the region moved into Tier Three on October 24.

When it was announced that South Yorkshire would go into Tier Three last week the highest infection rate was recorded in Barnsley – 423.3 coronavirus cases per 100,000 people. 

Bradford is followed by Calderdale (418.1), which diagnosed 884 cases in one week across the 210,000-strong borough.    

Leeds is third, with 415.1 new cases per 100,000. A total of 3,292 cases were diagnosed in the university city last week, home to almost half a million people. The two areas with the highest rates are Hyde Park on 850.4 and Woodhouse Cliff with 856.5, according to the Government dashboard.  

However, data suggests that Leeds’ outbreak is stabilising after a sharp spike in cases when university students returned in September. It’s case rate has stayed relatively the same across October, at roughly 440 to 480 cases per 100,000.  

Wakefield diagnosed 404.2 new cases per 100,000 last week, making it the fourth worst-hit borough in West Yorkshire, followed lastly by Kirklees (384).

It comes as Mid Yorkshire Hospitals Trust said it had closed three operating theatres at Pinderfields Hospital in Wakefield, to enable staff to care for critically ill coronavirus patients. 

Chief executive Martin Barkley told The Independent: ‘We have seen an escalating number of Covid-positive inpatients at our trust.

‘The number of Covid-positive patients has increased from 68 patients last week to 139 patients as of 8am on Monday 26 October.

‘We have not yet had to implement all phases of our escalation plans, however, last week the trust made the crucial decision to close two elective theatres, and today a third one, at Pinderfields Hospital.

‘This has meant some planned surgery has been postponed to free up staff to support critically unwell patients who are on ventilation. These colleagues are working on our ICU.’

Over the weekend, South Yorkshire became the latest region to fall under the highest tier of controls, following Liverpool City Region, Greater Manchester and Lancashire. 

Swathes of the North West and Yorkshire have been plunged into Tier Three local lockdowns in recent weeks, including Liverpool, Manchester, Lancashire and Sheffield. 

Ministers finally confirmed last night Warrington, in Cheshire, would be the latest to fall under strictest measures as of today, following a spike in cases among over-60s. 

Currently more than 7million people in England are living under Tier Three lockdowns — but this figure will rise to around 8million by Thursday once the draconian measures are put into motion in Nottingham City, Gedling, Broxtowe and Rushcliffe.

A further 19million are in Tier Two, which means they are banned from meeting their friends and family indoors. 

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The Government coronavirus dashboard shows the infection rates in West Yorkshire and surrounding areas

The Government coronavirus dashboard shows the infection rates in West Yorkshire and surrounding areas

The Government coronavirus dashboard shows the infection rates in West Yorkshire and surrounding areas

It comes as Boris Johnson faces the biggest Tory challenge to his leadership since the general election after a group of 50 MPs demanded a lockdown exit strategy. 

Ministers use a so-called ‘basket’ of indicators to decide when Covid-19 restrictions need to be tightened in a given area, including cases and hospital admissions. But they’ve made no effort to clarify how much these have to be reduced in order to escape the draconian measures. 

The newly-formed Northern Research Group of Conservative backbenchers has written to Mr Johnson to warn the coronavirus crisis is threatening his pledge to ‘level-up’ the country and could ‘send the North into reverse’.

LIVERPOOL MAYOR ‘SUPPORTS TIER FOUR’ 

Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson said today he could support any move to place the city into a new harsher Tier 4 lockdown to halt the spread of coronavirus.

The Labour politician, who suffered the tragedy of losing his own brother to the pandemic less than a fortnight ago, said he is not opposed to the introduction of ‘tougher measures if necessary’. 

Liverpool was the first English region to be put into the top Tier 3 and is one of five northern locations currently under the strictest level of lockdown measures due to a surge in cases.

This morning Mr Anderson, whose brother Bill was one of 61 people to die with the virus in the city in one week, told BBC Breakfast: ‘(The pandemic) has taken untold damage on people’s wellbeing and a huge toll on families where people have died.

‘If anything was required to bring it down faster I would do that.

‘However, I want to make sure that we are giving tier three a chance to see if the measures have an impact.’

He added he would review the results of the Tier 3 restrictions in 14 to 16 days’ time.

A fourth tier could see restaurants and non-essential retail stores close, with the plans being explored after the Scottish Government opted for a five-tier model in which Level 4 is closer to the full lockdown implemented in March – but with schools remaining open. 

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The group, led by former Northern Powerhouse minister Jake Berry, who represents the constituency of Rossendale and Darwen, wants the Prime Minister to publish a ‘clear road map’ for Tier Three areas to leave lockdown.

They also want an economic recovery plan for the North of England, which has been battered by the ‘second wave’ of the coronavirus, unlike the South. 

Mr Berry said the Government needed to do a better job of providing the public with ‘easily digestible’ data to show how the fight against Covid-19 is progressing in order to better incentivise people to stick to the rules.

Mr Berry this morning dismissed claims of a Tory rebellion, telling the BBC’s Radio 4 Today programme: ‘It’s not a revolt, I don’t know how it can be a revolt for northern MPs to write to the Prime Minister to ask to work with him on delivering him on his exciting manifesto that he has a mandate for from December 2019. 

‘We are asking for the Government to reaffirm its commitment to stimulate the north by bringing forward a northern growth strategy. 

‘The reason we’ve written to the PM asking to work with him on his levelling up agenda as northern MPs is for many areas of the north we have been in restrictions similar to Tier Three, almost identical to Tier Two, since August and that’s why we want to revitalise the PM’s levelling up agenda by working with the Government to deliver for the community we as Northern MPs represent.’ 

The letter prompted an immediate charm offensive from Business Minister Nadhim Zahawi as he praised the group’s MPs for acting as ‘champions for their area’. 

He told Sky News: ‘They want to make sure that their Northern Powerhouse strategy that Jake Berry and others have worked so hard on – with myself, I’m the local growth minister as well as being the business and industry minister – is delivered.

‘That is absolutely our focus, and you will see that coming through in our refresh of the industrial strategy.’

He said Tier Three areas were subject to 28-day reviews and that bringing the virus under control was the route out of restrictions.

Mr Zahawi told LBC Radio: ‘There is some good news. I have to be very cautious about this… but what I would say if you look at the the data, where we are working really well together, the rate of increase has slowed down.

‘It’s still too high, and we’ve got to continue to protect our hospitals, make sure that we save lives, protect the NHS and of course protect livelihoods and businesses, which is why this is a balancing act.’

He added: ‘It’s a choice between two harms – the harm of the virus and the harm to the economy and to livelihoods, which ultimately also leads to health harms as well.’

Scientists yesterday cast doubt on the benefit of measures that do not go as far as those in the nationwide lockdown in March.

Researchers at the London School for Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) interviewed thousands of people about how any people they were meeting before and after the rule of six and 10pm curfew — first introduced in September.

Most participants said they had been seeing the same number of people as they did before, meaning the measure did not have the desired effect of reducing social contacts.

Scientists at Imperial College London back the idea that a full-scale lockdown is the only way to curb infections.

Their study, published yesterday, revealed antibodies have waned 26 per cent since June, and therefore the majority of Britons are still vulnerable to catching the coronavirus.   

When asked on Times Radio this morning if Tier Three restrictions were tough enough, Professor Wendy Barclay, from Imperial College London, said: ‘I think that one of the points we tried to put across yesterday in the paper was that the total lockdown that we had back in late March was enough to turn the tide, and get the virus back under control.

‘So far, none of the other restrictions that we’ve seen and none of the other actions, seem to have done that.

‘So it’s a very difficult balancing act and I think we need to keep trying to find the right formula, which allows people to get on with their lives but also gets the R number in the right direction.’

It follows the Health Secretary Matt Hancock raising fears of new tougher coronavirus lockdown restrictions under a ‘Tier Four’ in the worst affected parts of England.

It could see the closure of shops in a devastating blow to the economy, and restaurants, which, under Tier Three restrictions, can stay open and serve alcohol to people eating a meal.

The Health Secretary refused to deny that plans were being made to emulate Nicola Sturgeon’s clampdown in Scotland, involving a five-tier system.

Asked about reports that there are plans to partially copy Scotland, which has Tier 4 at the top of the five-tier system, Mr Hancock told BBC Breakfast: ‘We’ve always said all along that we take nothing off the table.

‘Having said that, we have seen the rise in the number of cases has slowed a bit.

‘The problem is it’s still going up, and while it’s still going up we’ve got to act to get it under control.

‘We rule nothing out but at the moment the three-tier system is what we’re working to and it’s effective in slowing the growth of this virus but it hasn’t brought this curve to a halt.’

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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Donald Trump’s ex-political aide says Melania is sometimes ‘repulsed’ by husband

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donald trumps ex political aide says melania is sometimes repulsed by husband

A former political aide to President Donald Trump has said his wife Melania is sometimes ‘repulsed’ by her husband. 

Omarosa Manigault Newman, 46, met the President in 2004 after appearing on The Apprentice, and in January 2017 became Assistant to the President and Director of Communications for the Office of Public Liaison. 

She has since written a tell-all book, Unhinged, providing an insider’s of the Trump White House, which she claims the President and his legal team has tried to stop being published. 

Appearing on Lorraine today, she said what she has observed in the 17 years she’s known the couple would ‘make your head spin’ – and that Melania, 50, and her husband have a ‘very strange’ marriage where they ‘sometimes like each other’.  

A former political aide to President Donald Trump has said his wife Melania is sometimes 'repulsed' by her husband. Pictured, the President and his wife following last Thursday's final presidential debate

A former political aide to President Donald Trump has said his wife Melania is sometimes 'repulsed' by her husband. Pictured, the President and his wife following last Thursday's final presidential debate

A former political aide to President Donald Trump has said his wife Melania is sometimes ‘repulsed’ by her husband. Pictured, the President and his wife following last Thursday’s final presidential debate

Melania Trump appeared to refuse to hold her husband Donald's hand as they disembarked from Air Force One in Washington DC in August this year

Melania Trump appeared to refuse to hold her husband Donald's hand as they disembarked from Air Force One in Washington DC in August this year

Melania Trump appeared to refuse to hold her husband Donald’s hand as they disembarked from Air Force One in Washington DC in August this year 

‘It’s a very strange marriage,’ said Omarosa. ‘I’m very cautious to comment on the dynamics of a marriage because you never know what goes on behind closed doors.

‘But I have known this couple since they were dating, they got married a year after The Apprentice aired.

‘What I have observed in the last 17 years would make your head spin. Sometimes they like each other but sometimes she is repulsed by him.’ 

Omarosa claimed that the First Lady’s feelings for her husband were made clear last week when she appeared to pull her hand away from her husband after the final presidential debate.

The First Lady was pictured apparently looking startled as Trump's hand grazed against hers  during an awkward photocall with French president Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte in April 2018

The First Lady was pictured apparently looking startled as Trump's hand grazed against hers  during an awkward photocall with French president Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte in April 2018

The First Lady was pictured apparently looking startled as Trump’s hand grazed against hers  during an awkward photocall with French president Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte in April 2018 

The First Lady appeared to pull her hand away from her husband's grasp while disembarking Air Force One

The First Lady appeared to pull her hand away from her husband's grasp while disembarking Air Force One

The First Lady appeared to pull her hand away from her husband’s grasp while disembarking Air Force One

Appearing on Lorraine today Omarosa told what she has observed in the 17-years she's known the couple would 'make your head spin'

Appearing on Lorraine today Omarosa told what she has observed in the 17-years she's known the couple would 'make your head spin'

Appearing on Lorraine today Omarosa told what she has observed in the 17-years she’s known the couple would ‘make your head spin’

Some thought they spotted a moment of tension between the President and First Lady, while others dismissed it as a non-event – but Omarosa believes Melania ‘smacked it away’ from her husband.

Omarosa claims that Trump has tried to stop her from publishing her book, saying: ‘It was a crazy journey. 

‘I have known Trump for 17 years and wanted to take people on a journey and let them see what Donald Trump is like behind the curtain. 

‘Unfortunately if you speak out and speak truth to power, he will try to have an injunction. So his team of lawyers tried to stop it being published.’ 

When quizzed on whether she regrets her time in the Trump administration, she told that she did not want to turn down the chance to ‘serve her country once again’, after working in the office of Vice President Al Gore during the Clinton administration in the 1990s. 

Omarosa claimed there ‘had to be an adult in the room’ to focus on policy while Trump is in office, and that she did not take the decision to work for the former businessman ‘lightly’. 

‘I think it’s an important question,’ she said. ‘But any time you have an opportunity to serve your country, you have to do that.

‘He is off, he is a little crazy, but there has to be an adult in the room to help guide this country. This is the second administration I’d worked for, so when I was asked to serve my country again I didn’t take it lightly’. 

She told host Lorraine Kelly (left) that Melania, 50, and her husband have a 'very strange' marriage

She told host Lorraine Kelly (left) that Melania, 50, and her husband have a 'very strange' marriage

She told host Lorraine Kelly (left) that Melania, 50, and her husband have a ‘very strange’ marriage

Omarosa Manigault Newman, 46, (pictured with Trump in 2013)  met the President in 2004 after appearing on The Apprentice, and in January 2017 and began working for the Trump administration in 2017

Omarosa Manigault Newman, 46, (pictured with Trump in 2013)  met the President in 2004 after appearing on The Apprentice, and in January 2017 and began working for the Trump administration in 2017

Omarosa Manigault Newman, 46, (pictured with Trump in 2013)  met the President in 2004 after appearing on The Apprentice, and in January 2017 and began working for the Trump administration in 2017 

She believes that Biden is the most likely candidate for President as the US election approaches, and that she believes Trump ‘squandered the opportunity’ to create a less divided US. 

‘After 20 years in politics I can say it makes me really sad to see the division in our nation,’ she said. 

‘I expected we would unify the country in some way, but I can honestly tell you Donald Trump has squandered that opportunity.

‘There is so much negativity in the country, I cannot wait to see new leadership and someone who will take our country forward.’ 

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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