New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday launched a customised crash course programme that aims to skill and upskill over one lakh "Covid warriors" across the country, and said the nation needs to stay prepared as the danger of coronavirus and the possibility of its mutation remain present.

Speaking on the occasion, he said the second wave of the pandemic has highlighted the challenges the virus can throw up, and the training of more than one lakh frontline warriors is a step in that direction.

"We have to further enhance the preparedness of the country to meet the challenges ahead," Modi asserted.

He also said the central government is committed to providing Covid vaccination free to everyone, starting June 21.

With the country witnessing a shortage of medical oxygen during the recent surge in Covid cases, the prime minister said work is underway on a war footing to establish over 1,500 oxygen plants, with efforts to reach every district.

The customised crash course training will be imparted to people in six customised job roles, namely home care support, basic care support, advanced care support, emergency care support, sample collection support, and medical equipment support.

The course, launched from 111 centres across 26 states, has been designed by top experts, Modi said, adding that the Corona period has proved the importance of skill, re-skill and up-skill.

It is a special programme under the central component of the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana 3.0, with total financial outlay of Rs 276 crore, the PMO said.

The programme will create skilled non-medical healthcare workers to fill the present and future needs of manpower in the health sector, it said.

In his speech, Modi said the pandemic has tested the strength of every country, institution, society, family and person of the world.

At the same time, this also alerted us to expand our capabilities, and India took up this challenge and the ramping up of its capabilities related to Covid care and treatment is a testimony to its efforts, he said.

This training programme, which aims to skill people in two three months, will give fresh energy to the health sector and frontline force, and will also provide job opportunities to our youngsters, Modi said.

Given the size of our population, the prime minister said it is necessary to keep increasing the number of doctors, nurses and paramedics in the health sector.

He added that work has been done in a focussed manner to boost infrastructure and manpower over the last seven years by starting new AIIMS, new medical colleges and new nursing colleges.

Similarly, reforms are being encouraged in medical education and related institutions. The seriousness and the pace at which the work on preparing the health professionals is going on now is "unprecedented", he said.

Modi also heaped praise on health professionals like ASHA workers, ANM, Anganwadi and other workers deployed in village dispensaries and described them as one of the strong pillars of our health sector who are often left out of the discussion.

They are playing an important role in curbing the infection to support the world's largest vaccination campaign, he said.

The prime minister lauded these health workers for their work during all the adversities and said they have played a huge role in preventing the spread of infection in villages in remote parts and in hilly and tribal areas