Activists in Sri Lanka have set fire to the houses of 38 politicians as the country's recession deepens, with the government instructing forces to shoot on sight.

As irate Sri Lankans break a nationwide lockdown to demonstrate what they say is the government's mismanagement of the country's worst economic downturn since 1948, the police reported yesterday that 75 homes had been damaged in addition to those demolished.

After the unrest left at least eight people killed since Monday, the Ministry of Defense instructed troops to shoot anyone spotted destroying state property or attacking authorities on Tuesday, however it is unknown if all of the deaths were tied directly to the rallies.

The violence has left more than 200 people wounded. The country is undergoing a terrible economic crisis, with prices of daily products skyrocketing and widespread power outages lasting weeks. 

Thousands of anti-government protests have taken to the streets since March, calling for the government officials' resignation.

On Tuesday, the country's former Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa was rescued by the military in a pre-dawn operation hours after he withdrew following confrontations between pro and anti-government protests. 

Protesters attempted to break into the prime minister's 'Temple Trees' private residential compound twice overnight, according to a top security source.

His withdrawal came after nationally televised footage on Monday showed government loyalists wielding sticks hitting demonstrators and tearing down and blazing their tents across the capital.

According to witnesses, dozens of residences were set on fire across the country as a result of the rioting.

To disperse the demonstrators, armed soldiers were sent, and video footage showed police using tear gas and water guns. Until Thursday, a national lockdown has been enforced.

However, it is uncertain whether the lockdown and the departure of the prime minister will be enough to keep the country's growing unstable situation under control.

Many demonstrators claim that their ultimate goal is to push President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the prime minister's brother, to resign, which he has yet to do.

Regardless of political beliefs, the President asked everyone to remain calm and halt aggression and acts of revenge against people on Tuesday.

The President tweeted, "All measures will be taken to reestablish political security through agreement, within the legal mandate, and to tackle the economic recession."

The European Union and its 27 member states issued a statement on Tuesday condemning the "latest barbaric attack against peaceful demonstrators" and urging police to investigate.