Homemade device does not produce enough oxygen for Covid-19 patients, experts say

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A video that shows how to make an oxygen device from aquarium air pumps has been viewed thousands of times on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook along with a claim that it can be used for Covid-19 patients self-isolating at home. However, this claim is false. Experts say that the homemade device does not produce sufficient oxygen for Covid-19 patients with breathing difficulties.

The first part of the clip was posted on July 1, 2021, here on Twitter, where it has garnered more than 5,100 views.

Screenshot of the misleading post, taken on July 13, 2021

The Indonesian-language tweet reads: "For friends who are currently self-isolating or there are relatives who are currently self-isolating at home, perhaps you can try this method to overcome the expensive and shortage of oxygen these days. Tips on how to create your own oxygen producing tool to help people with breathing difficulties with just 120,000 rupiah...," which is equivalent to around eight US dollars.

The tweet continues with the second part of the video here and the third part here.

As the number of Covid-19 cases surges in Indonesia, overwhelmed hospitals have been forced to turn away patients, forcing desperate families to hunt for oxygen tanks to treat the sick and dying at home, AFP reported here.

As of July 14, 2021, the Southeast Asian country has reported more than 2.6 million Covid-19 cases and more than 68,000 deaths, according to government figures here.

The video has been viewed more than 2,500 times after it appeared with a similar claim Facebook here, here and here; and on Instagram here.

However, the claim is false.

Medical experts say the oxygen concentration produced by the homemade device is not sufficient for Covid-19 patients with breathing difficulties.

Aquarium air pumps only produce air bubbles in the water and do not improve oxygen concentration levels needed for Covid-19 patients, Professor Tatacipta Dirgantara, dean of the Faculty of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at the Bandung Institute of Technology, told AFP.

"The oxygen levels [in the homemade device] are the same as the oxygen levels in the air, which is 21%. Meanwhile, for people with breathing difficulties, the required oxygen concentration is much higher," Dr Erlina Burhan, pulmonologist at Persahabatan Hospital in Jakarta, said to AFP on July 8, 2021.

The oxygen levels produced by the device is "too low" for Covid-19 patients, Dr Rino Mukti, a scientist at the Bandung Institute of Technology, said on July 8, 2021.

Contacted by AFP, the WHO said on July 8, 2021: "With regards the device in the link you sent (air pump with plastic bottle), please note that this is not a medical device nor is it an oxygen concentrator (i.e., is not separating and compressing the oxygen from the air)."

The WHO has also shared care guidance for Covid-19 patients at home, including oxygen therapy, which has been published on its website here and here.

UPDATE 15/7/2021: This article was modified to change the title of Professor Tatacipta Dirgantara, who was originally quoted as dean of the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at the Bandung Institute of Technology. He is in fact dean of the Faculty of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at the Bandung Institute of Technology.
COVID-19