RCMP warn public Steinbach-area church gatherings — including drive-ins — aren’t allowed

Steinbach RCMP are warning the public religious gatherings — including drive-in services — are not permitted under current public health orders, after some in the area have continued to attend those events.

The public health orders intended to stop the spread of COVID-19 now ban all large gatherings across Manitoba, RCMP said in the Friday release. Those orders supersede all other acts, in the interest of public safety.

“In the Steinbach area, people have been attending worship services,” the release says.

“All places of worship must be closed and drive-in religious services, even if you remain in your vehicle at all times, are not permitted.”

The Steinbach area has seen skyrocketing cases of COVID-19 in recent weeks, with a test positivity rate of 40 per cent reported last week.

Fines have already been issued to one church south of Steinbach, the Church of God, after it refused to follow public health orders. The church was fined $5,000 for an in-person service attended by well over 100 people last Sunday, and the minister has said it plans to hold another service this weekend.

RCMP said Friday they’re working with the province and other law enforcement groups to ensure rules are followed.

Individuals could face fines of $298 for not wearing a mask in indoor public places or $1,296 for violating other public health orders, police said Friday. The fine for corporations is set at $5,000.

“Our goal is certainly not to hand out a bunch of tickets,” Steinbach RCMP detachment commander Staff Sgt. Harold Laninga said in the written release Friday.

“We want to keep everyone from coming to a large gathering in the first place. It is important to us that all citizens are aware of what the current orders are so they can abide by them.”