United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has said the novel coronavirus could give some countries an excuse to adopt repressive measures for reasons unrelated to the pandemic as he warned that the outbreak risks becoming a human rights crisis.

Guterres released a UN report on Thursday highlighting how human rights should guide the response and recovery to the health, social and economic crisis affecting the world. He added that while the virus does not discriminate, its impacts do.

"We see the disproportionate effects on certain communities, the rise of hate speech, the targeting of vulnerable groups, and the risks of heavy-handed security responses undermining the health response," Guterres said.

The UN report said migrants, refugees and internally displaced people are particularly vulnerable. It said more than 131 countries have closed their borders, with only 30 allowing exemptions for asylum-seekers.

"Against the background of rising ethno-nationalism, populism, authoritarianism and a pushback against human rights in some countries, the crisis can provide a pretext to adopt repressive measures for purposes unrelated to the pandemic," he said. "This is unacceptable."

In China, people who have spoken out on the outbreak, including doctors, have been questioned by police and arbitrarily detained.

Cambodia's long-term leader Hun Sen has also been accused of exploiting the coronavirus to accumulate more power, cracking down further on dissent.

Read the full article about how the pandemic is becoming a human rights issue at AlJazeera.