Twelve Thai boys rescued from a flooded cave in northern Thailand will be discharged from hospital next week, health minister Piyasakol Sakolsatayadorn said.
The last group of the 12-member “Wild Boars” football team and their coach was brought out of the Tham Luang cave, near the border with Myanmar, on Tuesday night, safely ending a dangerous rescue and evoking international relief and joy.
The 12 and their coach are recovering both physically and mentally and will be discharged from hospital on Thursday, July 19, Piyasakol told reporters on Saturday.
“We need to prepare both the children and their families for the attention they will receive when they come out,” he said.
Earlier this week, parents of the boys were still waiting to be reunited with their sons, as details of the high-risk rescue operation continued to emerge.
Footage released on Wednesday showed the boys with surgical masks on, sitting up in their hospital beds and making victory signs as family members looked on from behind a window.
Doctors have put the boys, aged 11 to 16, and their 25-year-old football coach in quarantine while they are being tested for infectious diseases they may have contracted inside the Tham Luang cave complex.
The “Wild Boars” football team got stuck inside the cave on June 23 after flooding caused by heavy monsoon rains blocked the entrance.
They were found dishevelled and emaciated but alive on a muddy ledge 4km inside the cave, nine days after they went missing.
A large rescue operation got under way on Sunday, with divers extracting the team in batches of four and five over the course of three days.
Adisak Wongsukchan told Al Jazeera he gave his 14-year-old son Nong Bew a big thumbs up when he first saw him in hospital.
“The first thing I want to do is hug him,” he said. “All parents have the same feeling. I want to see the face of my child and embrace him and ask him how he feels and how he’s doing.”