There are indications corpses may be piling up in morgues across the country as families suspend funerals in response to the ban on mass public gatherings and the lockdowns on Accra and Kumasi to halt the spread of the novel coronavirus.

This is in spite of the fact that funerals with 25 people or fewer are permitted under the restrictions.

This week alone, at least two hospitals in different parts of the country have appealed to families of deceased people to collect corpses for burial to free up mortuary space for the newly dead.

At the Pantang Hospital in the Greater Accra Region, health authorities say the refusal of people to hold private burials for their deceased relatives has left the morgue choked. According to them, bodies are now being piled on top of each other and the facility will soon be unable to accept new arrivals.

“There has been little activity in terms of people coming for bodies,” says the deputy administrator at the Pantang Hospital. “Of course, as for death, people continue to die so the number of bodies coming in has not changed. So what has happened now is that the morgue is currently full.”

The Pantang Hospital is in a lockdown area and there might be stronger justification for families refusing to organise funerals until the restrictions have been lifted. What is hard to explain is the situation at the Bono Regional Hospital in Sunyani, which is not in a lockdown area.

While Pantang Hospital is piling the bodies on top of each other, management at the Bono Regional Hospital say they’ve gone beyond the pile up stage and their morgue has far exceeded capacity.

They are also blaming the restrictions on movement and the ban on mass gatherings for the current state of affairs.

Management say it is hard for them to explain why families have refused to come for their dead relatives when the restrictions clearly exempted private burials. They believe, however, that a lot can be attributed to the desire by families of the deceased to organize big funerals, attended by hundreds of people from different parts of the country.

“The week before the lockdown, there were families scheduled to come for their dead relatives but they called it off. All funerals have been suspended,” says Dr. Emmanuel Kofi Amponsah, Medical Director at the Bono Regional Hospital. “But people must know that others are dying from other sicknesses apart from Covid-19 and we would need to keep them at the morgue. If people don’t come for the ones that have been in our possession for long, we would have no other choice but to ask families to take their dead relatives home immediately they die.”