Millions of vaccinated Australians will be able to use their mobile phones to gain exemptions to lockdown rules at cafes, restaurants and public events under a national cabinet plan to use digital records to verify vaccine status.

A federal vaccine record will be combined with state check-in systems to expand the use of QR codes at public venues to be sure those who gain entry have been immunised against COVID-19.

Mr Frydenberg said it was a “fallacy” to expect to eliminate COVID-19 and said the states and territories had to offer people a path toward easing restrictions.

“We have to give people the clear sense that there is light at the end of the tunnel,” he said.

Mr Morrison hinted at the new digital scheme by saying national cabinet was working on the exemptions, so there was a reward for people who signed up for jabs as quickly as they could.

“We have made a lot of progress on the digital support that is available to be done through state systems to give effect to that,” he said.

Concerns about a “vaccine passport” have inflamed political debate with Queensland Nationals backbencher George Christensen warning against the idea and others inside the Coalition worrying it would create two classes of citizens.

But the government is not calling the proposal a vaccine passport and is not setting up a new computer system or issuing a new document like a passport, choosing instead to rely on the immunisation records already used by millions of Australians.

Those aware of the plans inside the government said it did not mean adding a QR code to the vaccination record itself, which people download to their phones after signing up at the federal myGov website with their Medicare numbers.

The AIR, which looks like a certificate with a watermark, could be shown to gain entry to cafes, restaurants, cinemas and other venues, but this would be a decision for the individual. The federal government would not have any data on a person’s movement.

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