WINNIPEG -- The Manitoba government is forcing non-essential stores to close and banning social gatherings in an effort to stop a surge of COVID-19 cases.

Starting Thursday, non-essential retail outlets will be limited to curbside pickup and delivery, and churches will not have in-person gatherings.

Social gatherings with anyone other than household members will be forbidden, and restaurants, museums, theatres and recreational activities must close.

Schools will remain open as the province's chief public health officer says officials are not seeing much transmission within schools.

Premier Brian Pallister says the province is at a critical point in its fight against the virus.

Manitoba leads all other provinces in per-capita active cases.