South Korean health authorities have said the MERS outbreak is at a crossroads, backing off from its earlier view that the spread of the deadly virus had leveled off.

They made this known following the report of 4 new cases. The country now has 179 MERS cases of  which 67 recovered and 27 died.

Kwon Deok-cheol, the health ministry's chief policy official, told a news briefing,

"We are at a crossroads, whether this is going to spread further or not, as of now we can't answer that part because additional cases have occurred, although we thought until last weekend it had leveled off,"

The country reported no new MERS case on June 20 but since then 13 fresh cases have been confirmed. During the peak of the outbreak early this month, new infections exceeded 20 on some days.

Meanwhile, the partial shutdown of Samsung Medical Center in Seoul has been extended as about half the 179 infections in the country have been traced to the prestigious hospital, including some of this week's new cases.

Yesterday, the heir apparent of South Korean conglomerate Samsung Group [SAGR.UL] which owns the Samsung Medical Centre offered a head-bowed apology over the spread of the virus.