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On Friday night, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga found himself standing behind the same lectern where, just 36 days prior, he had announced that the nation’s second COVID-19 state of emergency would be lifted. But now, as he called a third emergency, he was reneging on a pledge that there wouldn’t be another one on his watch.

“I told you that I’d do everything I could to ensure that there wouldn’t be another state of emergency, so I apologize from the bottom of my heart for doing so and causing inconvenience to so many people,” Suga told a news conference that saw him attempt to evade responsibility for the new measures, blaming them instead on virulent new strains of COVID-19 that dramatically drove up case numbers in Osaka, Tokyo, Hyogo and Kyoto prefectures.

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