Responding to an increased demand from the provinces and territories, the federal government will be sending 35 million rapid tests across the country this month, Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said Friday.

Over the course of the pandemic the federal government has ordered 95 million rapid tests, and has already sent 86 million of them to the provinces and territories.

“For the last year, these tests were largely underutilized, but for the month of December only, provinces and territories requested around 35 million tests. This is very good news, and we will ensure that provinces and territories get these tests in time for the holidays,” Duclos said. “At this time now, the stocks in provinces and territories are relatively low.”

The health minister said should demand continue to be there, more tests will be ordered and sent in the new year.

He also restated that these federally-provided tests are always given for free to the provinces and territories but what they choose to do with them—a recent point of conversation amid rising case counts in some provinces, including Ontario—remains in the hands of provincial governments.

“There are different models that have evolved in Canada over the last few weeks, and what I hear from my colleagues… is that they are looking at each other and trying to see what works best,” Duclos said.

Across the country, provinces have taken a number of different approaches when it comes to the rollout of rapid antigen tests. While they have mostly been used in high-risk settings such as long-term care homes, or at schools and businesses, many have gone unused.

While PCR tests are still widely considered the “gold standard” in Canada, because the samples from PCR tests must be sent to laboratories for processing, it can take days to receive results.

Rapid tests, on the other hand, provide results in as little as 15 minutes, providing a practical use case for on-site testing.

With files from CTV News’ Nicole Bogart