Former US President Barack Obama has described Donald Trump's handling of the coronavirus crisis as a "chaotic disaster".

He made the comments during a private call with 3,000 members of the Obama Alumni Association - former members of his administration - a source said on Saturday.

In the 30-minute conversation, the former president said the response to the coronavirus outbreak served as a critical reminder for why strong government leadership is needed during a global crisis.

The call was meant to encourage his supporters to get behind Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, who is trying to unseat Trump in the November 3 election.

Obama said the election "is so important because what we're going to be battling is not just a particular individual or a political party."

Donald Trump responded to the criticism on Twitter

He reportedly added: "What we're fighting against is these long-term trends in which being selfish, being tribal, being divided, and seeing others as an enemy - that has become a stronger impulse in American life."

Obama's comments come amid reports there are now more than 1.3m confirmed cases of Covid-19 across the United States, making it the worst-affected country in the world.

The US death toll from coronavirus has also surpassed 80,000 people, the highest globally, followed by the UK with 31,855 deaths.

The former president's views were first reported by Yahoo News, which obtained an audio recording of the call.

A source familiar with the call confirmed the contents of the call to Reuters.

Obama urged his supporters to back Joe Biden's presidential campaign

Obama has kept out of discussions even when Trump blamed him and his Democratic administration for a series of problems related to having sufficient supplies to battle the pandemic.

However, during the call on Friday he said Trump's response to the coronavirus crisis has been "anemic and spotty".

Obama added: "It would have been bad even with the best of governments.

"It has been an absolute chaotic disaster when that mindset - of 'what's in it for me' and 'to heck with everybody else' - when that mindset is operationalised in our government.

"That's why, I, by the way, am going to be spending as much time as necessary and campaigning as hard as I can for Joe Biden."

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He told the Obama Alumni group: "I am hoping that all of you feel the same sense of urgency that I do."

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany on Saturday dismissed the criticism from Obama, saying in a statement to CNN : "President Trump's coronavirus response has been unprecedented and saved American lives."

President Trump responded to Obama's comments on Twitter, criticising him and 2020 Democratic nominee Joe Biden for their handling of the 2009 Swine Flu outbreak.

He tweeted: "We are getting great marks for the handling of the CoronaVirus pandemic, especially the very early BAN of people from China, the infectious source, entering the USA.

"Compare that to the Obama/Sleepy Joe disaster known as H1N1 Swine Flu. Poor marks, bad polls - didn't have a clue!"

About one year after Obama took office, the H1N1 pandemic hit the US – and in October 2009 he declared the outbreak a national emergency.

Trump has been recently criticised after suggesting injecting people with disinfectant could treat Covid-19.

Medical experts attacked the president's comments and urged people not to inject any dangerous substance - as it could be fatal.

Dr Vin Gupta, a pulmonologist and global health policy expert, added: “This notion of injecting or ingesting any type of cleansing product into the body is irresponsible, and it’s dangerous.”