UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has urged governments to include the protection of women in their response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Reports of domestic violence have surged globally in the wake of massive lockdowns imposed to contain the spread of the disease.

"Violence is not confined to the battlefield," Mr Guterres said in a statement and video released in multiple languages, days after his call for a worldwide ceasefire in all wars due to the outbreak.

"For many women and girls, the threat looms largest where they should be safest. In their own homes," he said.

Describing the rise in domestic violence as "horrifying," he urged all governments "to make the prevention and redress of violence against women a key part of their national response plans for Covid-19."

India reported double the usual number of domestic abuse cases in the first week of nationwide movement restrictions, according to the country's National Commission for Women.

Cases in France rose by a third in the week after that country's lockdown, authorities said, while Australia reported a 75% increase in internet searches relating to support for domestic violence victims.

Mr Guterres called for the setting up of emergency warning systems in pharmacies and groceries, and for safe ways "for women to seek support, without alerting their abusers."

"Together, we can and must prevent violence everywhere, from war zones to people's homes, as we work to beat Covid-19," he said, as he called "for peace at home - and in homes - around the world."

In the UK, the BBC's Victoria Derbyshire wrote the country's domestic abuse helpline number on her hand while presenting the news.

Last week, gardaí promised that they will respond quickly and robustly to any report of domestic violence despite the current restructuring due to the Covid-19 emergency.

The head of the Protective Services Bureau, Chief Superintendent Declan Daly, said that even though there are more gardaí on the streets fulfilling other duties, the Covid-19 outbreak has not diminished its service.

Gardaí say they recognise the increase in anxiety and fear felt by victims of domestic violence and coercive control because of the Covid-19 restrictions and that officers from the Garda Victim Service Offices will contact previous victims to ensure they and their families are safe and reassured.

Anyone affected by issues raised in this article can contact:

Childline on 1800 66 66 66, or text "support" to 50101
Women's Aid on 1800 341 900