Two major hospitals in Seoul refused to admit patients on Wednesday in an increasingly desperate bid to halt the spread of the deadly Middle-East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) after four new cases of the virus were reported.
The new cases of MERS included two who were in the same hospital ward as other patients with the potentially deadly virus, Seoul's health ministry said.
The others were a nurse at Samsung Medical Centre in Seoul -- one of the epicentres of the outbreak -- and a relative of a patient who was hospitalised for an unspecified disease in a hospital in Pyeongtaek, south of Seoul, in early June.
Out of 179 people confirmed to have caught MERS, five were infected through unknown transmission routes outside hospitals, which have until now been at the epicentre of the outbreak, the ministry said.
A total of 27 people have died in South Korea's MERS outbreak -- the largest outside Saudi Arabia -- while about 3,100 people were being held under quarantine at state facilities or at home.
Samsung hospital, where nearly 90 patients, visitors and medical staff have contracted the virus, declared a 10-day suspension of most services on June 14 to stem the spread of the virus.
But as the number of new infections has continued to grow, authorities have decided to extend the partial shutdown "indefinitely".
The outbreak at the hospital, which belongs to South Korea's top conglomerate Samsung group, prompted heir apparent Jay. Y. Lee to publicly apologise for "causing great pain and concern" on Tuesday.
Another major Seoul hospital, Konkuk University Medical Centre, on Wednesday also stopped admitting new patients and performing surgery after four cases were reported in recent days.
Almost all infections so far have taken place in hospitals and the World Health Organisation said it had found no evidence suggesting transmission of the virus outside hospital.