THE PESO weakened versus the greenback on Monday due to the detection of the more infectious Lambda variant in the country and the possibility of an extended lockdown as cases continue to surge.

The local unit closed at P50.645 per dollar yesterday, shedding 16.4 centavos from its P50.481 finish on Friday, based on data from the Bankers Association of the Philippines.

The peso opened Monday’s session at P50.45 versus the dollar. Its weakest showing was at P50.66, while its intraday best was at P50.43 against the greenback.

Dollars exchanged increased to $967.5 million on Monday from $641.17 million on Friday.

A trader said the peso dropped after the country reported its first Lambda variant case on Sunday.

Health authorities on Sunday confirmed the first case of the Lambda variant, a 35-year-old patient pregnant woman living in Western Visayas. The patient tested positive for the virus in July and has since recovered.

Lambda has been classified by the World Health Organization as a “variant of interest” because its genetic makeup was found to be more infectious and more resistant to vaccines compared to the original version of the virus found in Wuhan, China.

Meanwhile, Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. Chief Economist Michael L. Ricafort said the peso weakened due to fears that the lockdown will be extended due to the surge in infections.

Cases rose by 14,610 on Monday to bring active infections to 106,672. This marked the third straight day that new COVID-19 cases went above 14,000.

The strict lockdown in Metro Manila and some provinces will last until Aug. 20 if not extended. Business groups earlier said they oppose an extension as it will adversely affect the economy and cause losses to both firms and their employees.

For today, the trader gave a forecast range of P50.55 to P50.80 per dollar, while Mr. Ricafort expects the local unit to move within P50.45 to P50.70. — L.W.T. Noble