Boris Johnson has accused “selfish” nations which escaped the worst impact of Covid-19 of taking “mistaken comfort” from countries with higher death tolls.
In his address to the United Nations, the prime minister attacked a “grisly reverse Olympic league table” which measured how many people had lost their lives within borders.
For a long time, those tables placed the UK very near the top – receiving international criticism as its perceived bungling of its pandemic response saw the death toll top 40,000.
Mr Johnson, addressing the UN remotely from London, said coronavirus had “made individual nations seem selfish and divided from each other”.
“Every day people were openly encouraged to study a grisly reverse Olympic league table, and to take morbid and totally mistaken comfort in the greater sufferings of others,” he said.
“We cannot go on like that, we cannot make these mistakes again,” he added, vowing the UK would strive to “heal those divisions and to heal the world”.
In the speech, the prime minister announced a 30 per cent increase in funding for the World Health Organisation – £340m over four years – to make the UK the largest national donor if Donald Trump quits the body, as threatened.
And the UK will £500m in aid funding to help 92 of the world’s poorest countries secure a vaccine, through COVAX, an international procurement vehicle.
Mr Johnson has repeatedly refused to accept calculations showing the UK – along with the US and Brazil – suffered more deaths in the early month of the pandemic, calling them premature.
He has also stalled on a public inquiry into his handling of the crisis, despite promising one in the House of Commons, to the fury of bereaved families.