Will things ever be the same again? Do we want them to be? When the pandemic passes and the wind has blown away the last discarded streamer and speck of confetti from the street parties, do we return to the way it was? Has death and our brush with it changed anything – and do we even want it to?

The world as it is came about through a long process of thinking, of ideas, often competing ones, and the only way it will change is by thinking a different one. As someone said, a new world is possible.

Political animals, like the feline one, don’t willingly change their spots or colours. But some new truths have been rammed into the ruling ideology, that there are essential workers without whom the masters of the universe would plummet to the Earth, the captains of industry would run aground. It’s the nurses, the doctors, the cleansing workers and cleaners, the drivers, the transport and agricultural workers, those on minimum wage and below who make it all work. This much is now a given. They won’t put up with being overlooked again.

Another truth to emerge is that state intervention, much derided and abjured in the past, is crucial to any economy. Trillions of dollars poured into businesses and pockets in the US, the crucible of capitalism, billions of pounds here, the absence of which would have made the Great Recession, or Black Monday seem like VE Day. Massive public investment is keeping people alive and, without it, it is very probable there would be open revolt.

In the last few days the UK Government has suggested there will have to be a new austerity, that the same people who always pay – those same ones who make it work – will have to do so again. That surely would be a grave miscalculation. Boris Johnson will be reminded that he’s only here because of those people although the promised £350 million a week for the NHS emblazoned on that red bus he sprang from will be parked somewhere.

There are historical precedents for pandemics and the changes they brought. The Black Death in the 14th century swept through Britain, Europe and Asia, killing around 60% of the population. Because of our climate and sparse population we weren’t badly hit by comparison with the rest of the UK. We were quick to take advantage of it, however, raiding Durham in 1349 and perhaps bringing the disease back with the booty.

But the decimation of the population gave agricultural workers strong bargaining powers, enhancing their rights and leading to the abolition of feudalism. Workers’ wages rocketed even as GDP fell.

The influenza epidemic of 1918, in the wake of the First World War, may have killed 100 million worldwide but again the shortages of labour led to wage hikes, a baby boom and a jump in life expectancy. It also heralded the creation of the National Health Service. A new Ministry of Health in Britain after the war commissioned a report from Lord Dawson which, in 1920, recommended a single health system, which was to take almost 30 years and a Labour government to come to pass.

As the Canadian historian Susan Smith has said about the present one: “A crisis like this is a reminder of why a universal healthcare system is so essential.”

There was a different kind of pandemic in 2007-08, a global financial one. Again states pumped massively into financial institutions, leading to increased government borrowing. This was a political stick the Conservatives used to beat the then Labour government and win power. In the unlikely event that is tried again it will turn out to be a rubber one.

It led to nearly a decade of austerity which, in the last few days, the UK Government has hinted may be reintroduced, so far without committing to tax increases on the wealthy. It is difficult to believe that the ones who bore the brunt of it before, the poorest, will accept it again.

The crisis has also shown the weakness, the unpreparedness and the lamentable lack of action by the EU in helping its member states. It was only two days ago that an agreement was reached for a €100 billion loan fund to keep workers in their jobs. National borders have gone up as countries have dealt with their own internal traumas and who can say how that will play out politically? Whatever your view on Brexit, the EU now appears a less desirable destination.

So what now? The SNP, in what will surely be a plank in any forthcoming referendum campaign, are working on a universal basic income for all – an idea that might have been ridiculed in December but now looks of its time.

An influential group of almost 200 Dutch economists have also proposed a new, and radical, economic model, with five main strands. Instead of GDP growth they propose a model which distinguishes between sectors, with the beneficial and public – clean energy, care, education and so on – to be allowed to grow with direct investment and the unsustainable (oil and gas, mining etc) shrunk.

They also call for an economic policy based on redistribution, a universal basic income, taxes on income, profit and wealth, the bolstering of health and care services, and education. Agriculture would embrace biodiversity and sustainability, trade would be reduced and debt cancelled, not just for employees but to debt-laden developing countries.

Blue sky, or just wishful thinking? Interestingly, and perhaps a faint signal of change, the arch-capitalist investment group, Macquarie Wealth, told its investors: “Conventional capitalism is dying, or at least mutating into something closer to a version of Communism.”

Well, probably not. What are some safer predictions about our post-virus world (at least until the next one emerges)?

There will certainly be considerably more working from home, which will slightly mitigate transport pollution, as well as a boost in online education. The pace of the introduction of robots in industry will also surge, and we will become even more tech-dependent in the home.

The high street will take further blows as more shopping is done online. Jeff Bezos and Amazon aren’t going to suffer any time soon.

Airline travel will decrease, certainly in the medium term, and several airlines may go under. Checks at airports will be even lengthier and more involved which will also be a disincentive. Prices, too, will probably rise.

The lockdown on industry, with less travelling, has reduced the levels of nitrogen dioxide in the atmosphere, and if anything advances the case for a carbon-free future this is the evidence. However, there are powerful vested interests, particularly in the States, who will fight this to the last gasping breath, aided by Donald Trump. Greta Thunberg will be dipping out of school again soon.

Global trade will survive but companies will try to shorten their supply lines as much as they can. Trade could shrink by up to one-third and whether it bounces back is complicated by Brexit, if a trade deal is struck with the EU, and with the United States.

Notwithstanding the physical casualties of Covid-19 it hasn’t killed off global tensions. The US administration is becoming even more belligerent to China, Venezuela is in the firing line, as is Iran, and the Middle East could erupt once more.

When the present crisis is over we might simply be back in the old one.