Vietnam looks to call end to coronavirus as Assembly nears

Linda J. Dodson

HANOI — Vietnam’s first session of the 2020 National Assembly starts on Wednesday, with the legislative body formed in 1946 to hold online meetings for the first time ever to limit the risk of a new outbreak of the coronavirus.

The country’s constitution stipulates the Assembly is the highest organ of state power. The legislative session, which is scheduled to conclude on June 18, comes as the communist-led country emerges from the pandemic. It essentially lifted all restrictions on May 8 after becoming the first Southeast Asian nation to bring the number of new cases in the community to zero.

On the agenda for the new session are amendments to the Enterprise Law and Investment Law, among other items. The Enterprise Law is to be amended in an effort to cut the administrative steps, costs and time needed to establish new companies as well as to protect the rights, obligations and benefits of shareholders, investors as well as company stakeholders, those mainly engaged in small businesses.

The Investment Law is to be amended to allow local and foreign investors to put their money into large-scale R&D projects, startups, education companies and other businesses.

Five resolutions related to the EU-Vietnam free trade agreement and the EU-Vietnam Investment Protection Agreement are also set to be approved, Nguyen Manh Hung, deputy chairman of the National Assembly Office, told a news conference on Monday.

Hanoi has also assigned relevant bodies, including the ministry of health, led by Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam, to prepare for the possible declaration of the end of the coronavirus in the country.

According to the Law on Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases, the country can declare the end of a pandemic after 28 days without any new cases in the community.

As of Tuesday, the country has reported zero new cases for 33 straight days. Vietnam is still seeing new imported cases as Vietnamese living abroad keep coming back to the country.

That same law cites other conditions specific to each epidemic that must also be met, as prescribed by the prime minister, before a threat can be declared to have passed.

The Law does not distinguish between community and imported infections, so the government is expected to error on the side of caution in regard to declaring the threat over.

The legislative session will be organized in a phased manner to minimize the risk of infection. During the initial period, from May 20 to May 29, around 165 of the current 483 lawmakers will be present at the National Assembly House in Hanoi. The remaining members will join via videoconference from 63 provinces and cities.

Lawmakers will participate in meetings via mobile devices equipped with software that enables them to vote on agenda items. The results will be put up on screens at the National Assembly House.

A direct Q&A format will be skipped, and members at the assembly house will be asked to submit their questions to organizers to ensure social distancing.

In the next phase, from June 8 to June 18, the number of attendees at the assembly house will increase but still limited to about half of the 483 members. The exact size will be finalized after assessing infection risks.

The National Assembly meets twice a year. Traditionally, amendments to laws and regulations are key topics at the first meeting. The second generally focuses on social welfare issues and economic development.

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