nightclub | STRINGER

Spanish Equality Minister Irene Montero has asked regions to order the closure of brothels in a bid to prevent new coronavirus outbreaks, a week after the government shut most nightlife establishments and imposed various other restrictions.

The ministry has sent a letter asking "regions to specifically act on places where prostitution is exercised, like brothels", she told radio station RNE on Friday.

Brothels operate in a legal grey area in Spain, which makes regulating their activities tricky, a ministry spokesman said.

Prostitution is tolerated in Spain while sexual exploitation and pimping are illegal. Many brothels operate in the country as hotels or other lodging establishments.

Montero said the same rules that apply to nightclubs should be imposed on brothels, while her ministry was working on regulation to protect people from sexual exploitation.

She did not specify whether she was considering an outright ban on prostitution, as some people advocate, or to regulate the activity and give legal protection to sex workers.

With more than 377,000 total cases and nearly 29,000 deaths, Spain is grappling with one of Europe's most severe coronavirus epidemics, marked by a recent new increase in infections.

Nightlife venues and informal parties have been linked to several clusters of infection since Spain emerged from a strict lockdown at the end of June.

At least one cluster had been linked to prostitution, according to the equality ministry.