Accra, Ghana (CNN)Inside the morgue at the Pantang Hospital in Accra, Ghana, a stench of decaying bodies pervades a room where bodies placed in coffins have begun to spill onto the open entrance space.
Bodies are piling up in Ghana's morgues as families resist smaller Covid-era burials
"We are running out of space," the hospital's director, Dr. Frank Baning, told CNN at the facility based in the northern part of Ghana's Greater Accra region.
Since the coronavirus pandemic put a stop to large public gatherings, relatives have opted to store corpses of their loved ones in morgues for longer than usual until they can hold a proper funeral.
"It has been difficult because there are not many other mortuaries around to hold the bodies," Baning said.
Ghanaian funerals usually last several days and up to a week in some parts. They are deeply symbolic ceremonies involving thousands of mourners to celebrate the life of the deceased.
So it was a bitter pill to swallow for many, when the country's president, Nana Akufo-Addo, imposed the ban on large gatherings.
He offered an alternative: perform a private burial with no more than 25 guests.
Ghana currently has more than 6,486 cases of the coronavirus and 31 deaths have been confirmed, according to latest figures from the health ministry. Earlier this month, Akufo-Addo extended the restriction of public gatherings until May 31.
A few families have taken this route, but by and large, many relatives have opted to wait until the ban is lifted to bury their loved ones.
Chris Awuyah, a Ghanaian professor based in the United States, lost his uncle in Ghana to natural causes in February.
"Over 2,000 people were expected to be present at his funeral," he told CNN. All of that changed when government restrictions prevented the funeral from happening as planned.
"A large part of funerals is about bringing families together. That matters to us," says Awuyah, whose deceased 87-year-old uncle, Jonas Awuyah, was considered the head of the family.
"We are hopeful we can have a proper funeral for him."