Taipei, May 5 (CNA) President Ma Ying-jeou's plan to visit El Salvador in late May is still on track, although two confirmed swine flu cases have surfaced in that country, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) confirmed Tuesday.
Henry Chen, spokesman for the MOFA, said an advance team had been sent to El Salvador on May 2 to make preparations for the president's visit and to observe the swine flu situation there first hand.
Chen explained that because the planned state visit by the head of state is very important to cementing the nation's diplomatic relations with El Salvador, the MOFA is still preparing for the visit in accordance with the original plan.
At the same time, the Presidential Office will assess information and views submitted by health experts and the advance team and will make a final decision on whether the visit should proceed as scheduled despite a few cases of A(H1N1) flu infections, Chen said.
El Salvador is one of 21 countries for which Taiwan has issued a yellow travel alert because swine flu has been reported there.
On the MOFA's three-color travel advisory scale, a yellow alert serves as a reminder for travelers to exercise caution when traveling to those countries. An orange travel alert suggests that travelers postpone their trips, while a red alert warns travelers not to enter the area in question under any circumstances.
So far, the red travel alert has been issued only for Mexico, which has reported 26 swine flu-related deaths and 701 other confirmed infections.
Meanwhile, Department of Health chief Yeh Ching-chuan stated that he had never suggested that the president cancel his planned visit to El Salvador.
Noting that only two swine flu cases have been reported in El Salvador, Yeh said it will be inappropriate to discuss whether the visit should be canceled.
Yeh said more observation is needed to see whether the swine flu infection will continue to spread, and that the situation will become clear by mid-May.
Ma is scheduled to visit three allies in Central America May 27-June 4. In addition to attending the inauguration of El Salvador's President-elect Mauricio Funes on June 1, he also plans to visit Guatemala and Honduras.
The MOFA indicated last week that the visit will proceed as planned unless a red travel alert is issued for any of the three countries.
(By Han Nai-kuo)