WINNIPEG -- Premier Brian Pallister has a strong message for Manitobans disrespecting public health orders and is telling people to celebrate the holidays differently this year.

“If you don’t think that COVID is real right now, you’re an idiot,” the premier said during a news conference Thursday morning.

The premier provided an update on the provincial government’s response at a news conference Thursday during which he advised Manitobans to change their Christmas and holiday celebrations to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“I’m the guy who’s stealing Christmas to keep you safe because you need to do this now,” he said.

Pallister said he hoped Manitobans would respect him in the coming years for “having the guts” to tell them to do the right thing even if they aren’t happy with him now.

The premier said Manitobans will have much to celebrate next year, but for the time being, the right thing to do is to protect each other and stay safe by social distancing, wearing masks, and socializing only with people in their household.

The news comes as Manitoba is still dealing with Code Red restrictions, which prohibits gatherings outside of the household, with some exceptions.

On Thursday, Manitoba reported 12 new COVID-19 deaths and 368 new cases in the province.