Thousands of people who have already received their coronavirus jab will be offered a 'vaccine passport' in a new trial, after ministers backtracked on the controversial policy.

The Covid-19 immunity and vaccination passport has been developed by British biometrics firm iProov, and cybersecurity firm Mvine, and will be issued as a free app.

Essentially it will allow users to prove digitally if they have had their first or second jab - or no jab at all. 

Backed by Innovate UK, the Government's research funding agency, who have provided £75,000 investment, the app has now moved into the live testing phase, which is expected to be complete by March.

The news comes depsite the Vaccines Minister, Nadhim Zahawi, ruling out immunity passports back in December, a week after suggesting it was something ministers were considering, saying: “We are not looking at immunity passports at all.”

Matt Hancock also denied plans to implement passporting last week, telling the Spectator: "It's not an area that we're looking at."

Digital Covid health passports 'should not be rolled out, in order to protect human rights'

The Mvine-iProov passport will enable a person’s test result or vaccination status to be registered and proved without the need to disclose their identity.

The Covid passport will now be tested by Directors of Public Health within the NHS across the county. 

Director at Mvine, Frank Joshi, said: “Without the need for an extensive new infrastructure, the Directors of Public Health will learn how our innovation is used to promote public health and protect citizen privacy.

"Unlike some other digital solutions for Covid-19, this technology reduces the burden on frontline services and cost-effectively assures a secure and safe way to enable the return to work, return to school and return to the kind of life that people want to lead.”

Mvine and iProov aim to complete two trials by March 31, giving Directors of Public Health across the country the confidence to deploy the passport at scale to benefit their local areas.

Crucially, the Covid passport can be used by the NHS’ existing infrastructure, enabling it to meet the specific needs of local Directors of Public Health and any overarching national requirements.

This flexibility ensures that areas in different tiers or levels of vaccination rollout can set appropriate policies and enforce them with confidence.

It is expected the app, if successful, will help businesses and employees return to work, and enable families and friends to reconnect, more quickly and more responsibly than would otherwise be possible.

However, in December, a report written by Dr Ana Beduschi, from the University of Exeter, said digital health passports should not be introduced on a mass basis in order to protect data privacy and human rights.

Said digital health passports, also known as immunity passports, are digital credentials which when combined with identity verification allow people to prove their health status.

Dr Beduschi said policymakers needed to strike a balance between protecting the rights and freedoms of all individuals and safeguarding public interests while managing the effects of the pandemic.

She said: “Digital health passports may contribute to the long-term management of the Covid-19 pandemic, but their introduction poses essential questions for the protection of data privacy and human rights.

“They build on sensitive personal health information to create a new distinction between individuals based on their health status, which can then be used to determine the degree of freedoms and rights individuals may enjoy."

Dr Beduschi warned digital health passports may interfere with several fundamental rights, including the right to privacy, the freedoms of movement and peaceful assembly.

The report also warned that the use of digital health passports may have an impact on equality and non-discrimination and said the failure to address issues with the availability and affordability of tests and vaccines risks excluding already vulnerable people from protection against Covid-19.

CEO at iProov, Andrew Bud, said: “Ensuring consumer trust, security and privacy is essential to the success of projects in this space. iProov enables all three.

"Our Genuine Presence Assurance technology secures the link between the citizen and Mvine’s test status solution in this project, which we think can make an important contribution to forming the national response to the COVID-19 crisis.”