THE PESO weakened versus the greenback on Tuesday amid concerns over higher cases of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in some countries due to the Omicron variant.

The local unit closed at P50.46 per dollar on Tuesday, depreciating by 23 centavos from its P50.23 finish on Monday, based on data from the Bankers Association of the Philippines.

The peso opened Tuesday’s session at P50.20. Its weakest showing was at P50.465 a dollar, while its intraday best was at P50.16.

Dollars exchanged dropped to $994.8 million on Tuesday from $1.011 billion on Monday.

A trader in an e-mail said the peso retreated versus the greenback following reports of higher infections amid the rapid spread of the Omicron variant.

Reuters on Tuesday reported that daily COVID-19 cases increased by 55% to an average of 205,000 per day over the last seven days.

Amid the rising infections paired with bad weather, airlines have canceled more than 1,000 flights on Monday. The government’s top infectious disease expert, Anthony Fauci, said vaccine mandate for domestic air travel should be considered.

Other countries like the UK and Australia are also seeing higher infections reported due to the Omicron variant.

Concerns on the higher local infections also caused cautious sentiment and led to the peso’s depreciation, Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. Chief Economist Michael L. Ricafort said in a Viber message.

COVID-19 cases increased by 421 on Tuesday, bringing active infections to 9,750, based on data from the Department of Health.

The country also logged its fourth recorded patient sickened with the Omicron variant, the department said.

For Wednesday, Mr. Ricafort gave a forecast range of P50.30 to P50.50, while the trader expects the local unit to move within P50.35 to P50.55. — Luz Wendy T. Noble with Reuters