The United Nations Human Rights Commissioner has warned countries against using excessive force during the coronavirus lockdown.

Michelle Bachelet said countries should not use emergency powers as a weapon to quash dissent and not to use excessive force to control the population.

Ms Bachelet said shooting, detaining or abusing people for breaking curfew because they are desperately searching for food is unacceptable and unlawful.

South Africa, Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda are among countries where security forces have used repressive measures to enforce restrictions to movement.

Ms Bachelet urged governments to “recognize that the threat is a virus, not people”.

She said more than 17,000 South Africans have been arrested as a result of Covid-19 restrictions.

In Kenya, 27 human rights organisations have written an open letter to the government demanding that it stops punishing curfew offenders by forcefully sending them into quarantine centres.

About 32,100 coronavirus cases have been reported in 52 African countries, with 1,428 deaths and 9,741 recoveries.

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