It’s over. Against all odds, 12 boys and their football coach have dived, waded, climbed, and walked their way out of Tham Luang cave, a sprawling labyrinth of underground tunnels that has kept them prisoner for the last 17 days.
They’ve been taken to the nearby Chiang Rai hospital to recover – but the reunion with their parents will have to wait.
For now the football team is being kept in a sterile isolation room, where the only contact they’re allowed with the outside world is through a glass barrier. Their families have been told that hugging and touching are strictly-off limits while the boys undergo tests. Even if they’re given the all-clear, the first meeting will be at a distance of two metres and their parents will have to wear protective suits. Why are doctors taking such apparently extreme precautions?
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Though thousands of visitors flock to the Tham Luang system every year, marvelling at the cavernous entrance, the stalactites that hang like icicles from the ceiling and the heavenly sunbeams which light up a giant statue of Buddha every morning, it’s likely that there are less pleasant curiosities lurking deep inside the cave. Tropical caves are hotspots for potentially deadly infections.