The 12 boys rescued from a flooded cave in northern Thailand will be discharged from hospital next week, the country’s Health Minister Piyasakol Sakolsatayadorn says, as the boys send video messages thanking the world for their support.
The last of the 12-member Wild Boars soccer team and their coach were 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 boys and their coach have been in hospital since then and will be discharged from hospital on Thursday July 19, Mr Piyasakol said.
“We need to prepare both the children and their families for the attention they will receive when they come out,” Mr Piyasakol said.
In a video played at a news conference on Saturday, they appeared well, sitting up in bed, and thanking their rescuers.
“I am in good health now,” said one of the boys, a 14-year-old nicknamed Note.
“Thanks for saving me.”
The boys, aged 11 to 16, and their 25-year-old coach had planned to explore the cavern complex for about an hour after soccer practice on June 23.
But a rainy season downpour flooded the tunnels, trapping them.
Two British divers found them on July 2, squatting on a mound in a flooded chamber several kilometres inside the complex.
Then the problem became how to get them back out through the tunnels, some completely full of fast-flowing flood water.
All 13 were brought to safety over the course of a three-day rescue, organised by Thai Navy SEALs and an international team of cave-diving experts.
Mr Piyasakol told reporters the health of all 13 had improved.
Some had pneumonia when they were brought out of the cave but were recovering, he said.
All will be discharged from hospital in the northern town of Chiang Rai on Thursday, he said.
Crispy Pork, Sushi and KFC on the menu
Some of the group had lost as much as 5 kilograms but had regained some of the weight, and their appetites, in hospital, Mr Piyasakol said.
“I want to have crispy pork rice and barbecue pork rice,” 15-year-old Pipat Photi said in the video.
“I want pork knuckle rice,” said 13-year-old Duangpetch Promtep.
“Thank you for all the moral support.”
Others said they were craving sushi and KFC.
Photographs of the boys and their coach have also been released by Thai health authorities.
The images showing the boys making sketches while sitting in their hospital beds in a quarantined room were released on Saturday by the Chiang Rai Prachanukroh Hospital.
But while the group is in good health, they still face challenges.
One concern has been how they will deal with the fame, given the huge attention on the case, both from within Thailand and beyond.
The story is already set for a retelling by Hollywood, with two production companies looking to put together movies about the boys and their rescue.
He warned relatives of the boys to resist giving interviews to media over fears they could have a negative impact on their mental health.
“Everyone has worked well together to bring the children out. We worked well together then and we should work well together now so the children can recover physically and mentally as they grow up,” Mr Piyasakol said.