Churches across Manitoba will not be permitted to have in-person services starting on Thursday.

Following a province-wide lockdown, Premier Brian Palliser and Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin say faith-based gatherings cannot happen in person. 

"Drive-in services would not be permitted as regular services cannot be offered, or must be provided virtually only," the provincial spokesperson says.

Virtual services and virtual gatherings of any kind are permitted. 

"Baptisms would fall under the same category as weddings and funerals as they are not regular services. These are limited to five people, socially distanced, plus an officiant," a provincial spokesperson says. 

Religious officials, such as pastors, are permitted to be in the church together when they conduct the regular religious service. The province is asking only those necessary to the delivery of the religious service be there in person. Choirs and worship bands are not permitted.

Pallister says the measures are being taken will help to reduce the number of cases next month. He says if people can follow all of the new restrictions, Manitoba will see results. 

"If we can do that, then as I said earlier, we can give everybody the best Christmas present gift I think I can remember in my lifetime by flattening the COVID curve."

The restrictions will last for at least two weeks, but Roussin says to prepare for four weeks. 

All in-person faith-based gathering events are included in the new orders, including Sunday Services and Bible study groups. These activities are permitted to occur online.

Roussin says these restrictions are in place for faith-based restrictions because of the physical space they take place in. The doctor says prolonged time in enclosed spaces makes it easier for COVID-19 to spread. 

"It is not targeting those sectors, it is targetting the virus."

Last week, Dr. Brent Roussin said the province was seeing COVID-19 spread at faith-based gatherings, noting there have been "much more than 10" events where the virus spread.

Roussin has also said that a faith-based gathering resulted in a care home COVID-19 outbreak.