VANCOUVER -- B.C.'s public safety minister called it "unfortunate" that a handful of churches in the province are still ignoring COVID-19 regulations.

Mike Farnworth was asked about it Monday, after another weekend of in-person services at at least four churches. These gatherings have been banned for weeks in B.C. as an effort to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus, but three in Chilliwack and one in Langley may face charges for ignoring the rules. 

"The vast majority of religious institutions in this province have been abiding by those rules," the minister and solicitor general said.

"There are a very small minority … that have decided that the rules don't apply to them, and I think that's unfortunate."

Farnworth said what matters most to him is enforcement of the orders put in place to slow the spread of the disease.

"What people need to understand is that I respect the role of faith in their lives and faith helps them get through this pandemic, but faith alone is not going to prevent them from getting the virus."

Last week, Farnworth said he'd asked his ministry to consider increasing fines for repeated rule breakers

In late November, B.C.'s provincial health officer addressed those still attending church services, saying she understands the role of faith, but that there are other ways of worshiping during the social lockdown, including virtual services.

"Faith is not a building. It's not about Sunday mornings, but it's about every day, and how we connect with each other and how we support each other," she said at the time

Seniors are the most likely to suffer the consequences of irresponsible behaviour, she noted at the time.

"If you are thinking that it might be OK to bend the rules, please remember that this virus takes lives."