Ethical Issues in COVID-19 Communication to Mitigate the Pandemic: Dilemmas and Practical Implications

Nurit Guttman, Eimi Lev

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Communication plays a critical role in all stages of a pandemic. From the moment it is officially declared governments and public health organizations aim to inform the public about the risk from the disease and to encourage people to adopt mitigation practices. The purpose of this article is to call attention to the multiple types and the complexity of ethical challenges in COVID-19 communication. Different types of ethical issues in COVID-19 communication are presented in four main sections. The first deals with ethical issues in informing the public about the risk of the pandemic and dilemmas regarding communicating uncertainty, using threats and scare tactics, and framing the pandemic as a war. The second concerns unintended consequences that relate to increasing inequities, stigmatization, ageism, and delaying medical care. The third raises ethical issues in communicating about specific mitigation practices: contact tracing, wearing face masks, spatial (also referred to as social) distancing, and handwashing or sanitizing. The fourth concerns appealing to positive social values associated with solidarity and personal responsibility, and ethical challenges when using these appeals. The article concludes with a list of practical implications and the importance of identifying ethical concerns, which necessitate interdisciplinary knowledge, cross-disciplinary collaborations, public discourse and advocacy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)116-123
Number of pages8
JournalHealth Communication
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2021


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