Spanish region orders brothels to close to avoid contagion

MADRID (AP) — A Spanish region on Friday ordered all brothels to close after recent coronavirus clusters highlighted the difficulties of tracking contagion in these premises.

Prostitution in Spain often skirts laws that punish pimping and sex trafficking. Much of it happens at brothels that often operate with bar or hotel licenses, which has meant that many have remained open as authorities cracked down on pubs and nightclubs amid a surging number of infections tied to nightlife.

The Castilla La Mancha region, where the country’s highest number of brothels are concentrated, ordered the brothels to close by Sunday.

That came after a dozen positive coronavirus tests were found among seven women and five men at a brothel in the central Ciudad Real province. With no official registry of clients, authorities haven’t been able to contact trace other people who may have been exposed.

Spain’s Equality Minister Irene Montero on Thursday demanded that brothels be closed immediately. In a letter to the heads of Spain’s 17 regional governments, the minister said “a potential increase of coronavirus positives would be difficult to track” from the brothels and could endanger the health and rights of women there.

Montero, a member of a far-left party in the Socialist-led government coalition who has backed having tougher laws to abolish prostitution, said the regions should provide accommodation and social care to the women affected by the closures.

Spain’s top pandemic expert, Fernando Simón, warned this week that “things are not going well” regarding the country’s increasing infections, which are mostly tied to nightlife and young people. In two months since leaving a strict lockdown, the country has recorded close to 132,000 new infections.

Spain has seen nearly 29,000 confirmed virus-related deaths this year but experts say reported deaths in all countries have understated the true toll of the pandemic due to limited testing and other factors.

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Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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