The cost for a quarantine hotel stay is £1,750 for a single adult.
The first passengers arriving at Heathrow and going into quarantine on Monday included some who had travelled from Doha in Qatar.
The flight arrived at 6.20am but travellers found to be on the red list only emerged through immigration nearly two hours later. Passengers reported big queues in the immigration hall with Border Force staff trying to establish who was on the red list.
Andrew Burrett, 50, flew in from the US with his family. He said: “It was fairly smooth for us to get through but there was a huge queue around the red list area. There were lengthy delays there.” A passenger who flew in from Nairobi in a Kenya said: “It was ok for us but there was a lot of kerfuffle in the red list queue. There seemed to be a lot of confusion.”
Another said: “There was a fair bit of confusion.”
Roger Goncalves, a delivery driverwho is in quarantine at the Radisson Blu after returning from a visit to his native Brazil to visit family , said: “I flew in from Madrid.
“I’m feeling sad because there is no need. I showed my test and it’s negative. This room is so posh. I don’t understand why I need to stay here. I booked my tickets for February 10 but they sold out.
“I left Brazil yesterday. I was in immigration and I queued for a long time. For two hours. I can’t do anything, I just can watch tv and stay in my room.
“I can’t leave this room. They give us a menu. I can order breakfast, lunch and dinner.”
Guests are able to order in food from outside and have basics in their rooms including tea making facilities.
Passengers from red list countries had to to fill in paperwork and be interviewed by officials before they were taken away on a coach.
It took them to the nearby Radisson Blu Edwardian hotel, where security guards were on duty outside and flanked the passengers going into quarantine.
One woman, who had flown in from Zambia, said: “I’m not happy, but you have to do it.”
Health Secretary Matt Hancock insisted the system has been operating “smoothly” since it came into force at 4am.
Asked on Times Radio how quarantine hotel-bound passengers are being prevented from mixing with other arrivals in airports, he said: “All of this has been clearly set out, and I’m glad to say that, as of 6.30am when I got my latest update, this is working smoothly.
“We’ve been working with the airports and the Border Force to make sure that everybody knows (how it works).
“We have had to put this in place rapidly, I make no apologies for that, and we’ve been working with Heathrow and others.”
Pressed on how “red list” passengers are being kept away from others, Mr Hancock added: “You go down a separate channel at the gates and, once you’ve been through the gates, which are manned by the Border Force, there is then a security operation supported by the police so that people are gathered, go and pick up their luggage and then go to the hotels.
“So that’s all in train; there was a walkthrough of it yesterday and obviously it has been in place since four o’clock this morning.”
The Government has struck deals with 16 hotels so far, providing 4,963 rooms, with a further 58,000 rooms on stand-by, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said.
Passengers from red list countries may only arrive into Heathrow, Gatwick, London City Airport, Birmingham Airport, Farnborough Airport or any military airfield or port, according to the legislation.
Passengers arriving in England face fines of up to £10,000 for failing to quarantine, and those who lie on their passenger locator forms face up to 10 years in jail, Mr Hancock announced last week.
People returning to England who have not visited a “red list” country must quarantine for 10 days at home and complete two mandatory Covid-19 tests on the second and eighth day after arriving.
The GMB union has warned that its security guard members working in quarantine hotels are being put “at risk” by the Government’s “rushed policy”.
National officer Nadine Houghton said: “Once again, the Government’s rushed policy is putting staff at risk.
“Without working through the detail and listening to the voice of the workers delivering their policies, ministers risks failing at the first hurdle when trying to contain new variants.
“The Government has given security companies less than 36 hours’ notice to put staff and plans in place to carry out this policy. It’s a shambles.
“We will not sit back while our members are asked to do potentially unsafe work. There must be thorough negotiations on risk assessments and ensuring proper PPE is being provided.
“This isn’t just about the safety of workers, it’s about preventing new variants from spreading at a time when we are beginning to turn the tide on the virus.”