The strict social distancing rules imposed since late August have hurt restaurants, hospitality and retail sectors, as the government banned onsite dining after 9 p.m. (1200 GMT) and limited coffee franchises to takeout and delivery.
Small businesses are vanishing fast.
Statistics Korea data show the number of self-employed businesses were down by 128,000 in July from a year earlier to 5.55 million, marking the biggest annual drop since 2009.
The Korea Center for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) reported 155 new cases as of midnight Wednesday, which brought the total infections to 21,743, with 346 deaths.
The fresh government containment efforts have led to a steady drop in the daily tally since it reached a peak of 441 last month. But smaller clusters continued to emerge from churches, offices and medical facilities.
The government is set to announce soon whether to extend current curbs, which expire on Sunday, including limiting nightly on-site dining in the Seoul metropolitan area, health ministry officials said on Thursday.
“There are nearly 100 cases occurring daily in the greater Seoul area and we think this trend should be broken,” said Yoon Tae-ho, the ministry’s director-general for public health policy. ($1 = 1,185.4800 won) (Reporting by Cynthia Kim; Editing by Himani Sarkar & Shri Navaratnam)