Background: During the COVID-19 pandemic, intensive care units (ICU) introduced restrictions to in-person family visiting to safeguard patients, healthcare personnel, and visitors. Methods: We conducted a web-based survey (March–July 2021) investigating ICU visiting practices before the pandemic, at peak COVID-19 ICU admissions, and at the time of survey response. We sought data on visiting policies and communication modes including use of virtual visiting (videoconferencing). Results: We obtained 667 valid responses representing ICUs in all continents. Before the pandemic, 20% (106/525) had unrestricted visiting hours; 6% (30/525) did not allow in-person visiting. At peak, 84% (558/667) did not allow in-person visiting for patients with COVID-19; 66% for patients without COVID-19. This proportion had decreased to 55% (369/667) at time of survey reporting. A government mandate to restrict hospital visiting was reported by 53% (354/646). Most ICUs (55%, 353/615) used regular telephone updates; 50% (306/667) used telephone for formal meetings and discussions regarding prognosis or end-of-life. Virtual visiting was available in 63% (418/667) at time of survey. Conclusions: Highly restrictive visiting policies were introduced at the initial pandemic peaks, were subsequently liberalized, but without returning to pre-pandemic practices. Telephone became the primary communication mode in most ICUs, supplemented with virtual visits.

Original languageEnglish
Article number154050
JournalJournal of Critical Care
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2022


  • COVID-19
  • Family
  • Intensive care
  • Restriction
  • Visiting


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