THE peso weakened against the dollar Friday, reflecting deepening fears about the global impact of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19), which is now spreading rapidly outside its country of origin, China.

The peso closed at P50.97 against the dollar Friday, against its Thursday finish of P50.815, according to the Bankers’ Association of the Philippines.

Week-on-week, the currency also depreciated from its P50.94 close on Feb. 21.

The peso opened at P50.82 and hit a intrasession low of P51.01. The high was P50.80.

Dollar volume rose to $1.684 billion from $1.420 billion\ Thursday.

The peso weakened after the World Health Organization said that it is deliberating to declare the coronavirus outbreak as a global pandemic.

A trader and an analyst said the spread of coronavirus cases in Europe, the Americas, Africa and elsewhere in Asia left the market jittery.

“The peso weakened after the World Health Organization (WHO) said that it is deliberating declaring the coronavirus outbreak a global pandemic,” the trader said in an email.

Reuters reported that WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that countries should make preparations, adding that the virus has “pandemic potential” with new infections reported around the world now surpassing those discovered in China.

“The peso seems to be tracking global markets again as fears continue to heighten with fresh evidence that Covid-19 is spreading outside China,” UnionBank of the Philippines, Inc. Chief Economist Ruben Carlo O. Asuncion said in a text message.

Reuters reported that Nigerian Health Minister Osagie Ehanire announced that an Italian man who arrived in the country on Feb. 25 ago was Nigeria’s first coronavirus case.

“The patient is clinically stable, with no serious symptoms,” Mr. Ehanire said, adding that Nigeria has been taking measures to contain and control the disease.

The Lithuanian government also confirmed its first coronavirus infection on Friday. The patient is a woman who returned this week from a visit to Verona, Italy.

Italy is thought to be the worst-hit country in Europe with case numbers at 350 and deaths at 17. — Luz Wendy T. Noble