The patients left the centre in Beni when it came under attack by protestors against the cancellation of Sunday’s presidential election in the city. Some 17 had already tested negative for Ebola, while seven people had not yet been tested, according to a spokeswoman for the country’s health ministry.

The spokeswoman added that three patients had already returned to the centre.

And health workers are in contact with 17 others to arrange their return, while officials have contact details for the remaining four.

Soldiers and police clashed with protestors in Beni on Thursday over the decision to exclude the city from Sunday’s election.

Voting has also been called off in Butembo and the surrounding areas.

The electoral commission (CENI) announced the vote cancellation in the two cities on Wednesday due to an ongoing Ebola outbreak and militia violence.

However the cities are strongholds of opposition to outgoing President Joseph Kabila and local politicians claimed the move was an effort to swing the vote in favour of his preferred candidate, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary.

Demonstrators ransacked the Ebola isolation centre in the city during the protest.

Aruna Abedi, deputy director of the Ebola response, said demonstrators also attacked the office of the government agency coordinating the response to the Ebola virus in Beni before UN peacekeepers pushed them back.

Mr Abedi said: “Protesters tried to force the door of the centre.

“They were chanting songs hostile to the government and demanding elections. They threw projectiles.”

Colonel Safari Kazingufu, the police commander in Beni, said his forces had deployed across the city in a bid to end the chaos, including around Ebola treatment centres.

The Ebola outbreak in Beni, Butembo and the surrounding areas is now the second-deadliest in history, with more than 350 people killed so far.

Health authorities had previously insisted the vote would go ahead despite the outbreak of the disease.

Ebola is a serious illness that originated in Africa.

The largest known outbreak of the disease was in 2014-15, with more than 11,000 deaths reported by the World Health Organization.

Any area with an outbreak should be immediately quarantined, according to NHS advice.

The guidance states that patients with infection should be treated in isolation in intensive care, the guidance states.

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